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from Discourse on Women by Lucretia Coffin Mott Dec 17, 1849 | Thoughts from the great, great, great, great grandaughter of an outspoken woman

September 21, 2008 2 comments

For some time now I have been reading the letters and speeches delivered by Lucretia Mott, best known as a founding mother of the women’s movement and an impassioned abolitionist. My reason for doing this is to understand the initial core of the feminist movement and learn from the struggles and thoughts the founding mother’s grappled with.

I have no answers – there is an elusive element to this which I cannot yet catch a hold of. So here, in this web log, I am beginning to explore the thoughts, ideas, circumstances and sociological settings that informed the first wave of the feminist movement and start to map that history to where we are now, early in the 21st century.

I am also mining the rich past of my personal history. Lucretia’s blood runs through my veins and I have a feeling that right about now she is tapping her little Quaker foot and looking at me with an eternal question; “‘well, granddaughter, what is thee going to do now?”

Here is a quote concluding her Discourse on Women first delivered at Quaker meeting on December 17, 1849.

Let woman then go on – not asking favors, but claiming as a right the removal of all hindrances to her elevation in the scale of being – let her receive encouragement for the proper cultivation of all her powers, so that she may enter profitably into the active business of life; employing her own hands in ministering to her necessities, strengthening her physical being by proper exercise and observance of the laws of health. Let her not be ambitious to display a fair hand, and to promenade the fashionable streets of our city, but rather, coveting earnestly the best gifts, let her strive to occupy such walks in society as will befit her true dignity in all the relations of life. No fear that she will then transcend the proper limits of female delicacy. True modesty will be as fully preserved, in acting out those important vocations, as in the nursery or at the fireside ministering to man’s self-indulgence…In conclusion, let me say, credit not the old-fashioned absurdity, that woman’s is a secondary lot, ministering to the necessities of her lord and master! It is a higher destiny I would award you.*

She goes on in her conclusion to an end which I do not yet completely understand so I leave it here at the moment to reflect upon.

Lucretia Mott circa 1848

Lucretia Mott circa 1848

What Lucretia Mott was doing was calling upon the ability and inner strength of all women-kind. For too long were women content to be kept in sitting rooms stitching and watching the world pass them by. This is what initially moved her – along with some stupid rules that banned women from an international anti-slavery conference. She wanted women to stop being mamby pamby pretty play things. She wanted their power, their inherent, natural power to shine. Not over shine, not conquer, but to shine.

Clearly much has changed since 1849. But what has yet to shift is how we hold ourselves. Don’t wait for a hockey mom from Alaska or a Senator from New York to speak for you – SPEAK FOR YOURSELF. Do not be lured into a false sense of security because a woman might some day soon be president – gender is not the issue, gender is a smoke screen.

As much as it pained me to not pull the leaver for Hillary Clinton [and I promise you it DID pain me] in the primary I was not going to be swayed by a reason shouting at me saying “She’s a woman and you should vote for her.” NO! The reason I did not vote for Hillary is that I believed the other guy had a few better ideas. Sorry Hillary, but it’s true. I will vote for a candidate whom I believe in and the day it is a woman…hallelujah.

I will always vote the issues and that takes work & time of which I have precious little. I owe that much to Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who, in partnership, penned the Declaration of Sentiments and launched a future for generations of women and men to live into. These women had families, way more than five children and no running water, electricity, washing machines or the Internet! Look at what they accomplished.

What are WE going to accomplish for our great, great, great, great granddaughters and sons?

MMN

*Hallowell, Anna Davis: James and Lucretia Mott: Life and Letters The Riverside Press, Cambridge 1884
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