Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lucretia Mott

During my Sunday School class one day I made the statement, “When a pastor explained submission to me it saved my marriage.” Whew, I opened a can of worms. I got a startling reaction from this group of what I consider very godly women.

“Women have a right to do what they want to do.”

“Too many men lord over their wives because of that verse.”

Had the women’s liberation movement infiltrated the hearts of these women? Or had they had bad experiences with men who didn't follow the flip side of the Biblical admonition in Ephesians 5:24-25, love your wife as your own body?

I usually avoid reading or thinking about women’s liberation advocates, even historical ones. They bother me. I believe in equal rights, but many take it too far.

In researching for my next book, I found one couple who followed both sides of the admonition in Ephesians 5, James and Lucretia Mott who lived in the early 1800s.

In Philadelphia where they lived, James worked as a merchant buying and selling cotton until he switched to the silk business. He didn't want to have any part of the cotton industry because slaves produced it. He and Lucretia both hated slavery and wanted to do something about it.

James was one of those gems who valued his wife’s gifts instead of being intimidated or jealous of them. He showed his love for her by appreciating her gifts. One gift she had was for public speaking. He admitted that he did not have speaking ability but wanted his wife to use hers.

Their Quaker denomination encouraged women to become preachers. Lucretia became a very good preacher because of her natural speaking ability.

As a preacher, Lucretia worked to right a wrong that she couldn't bear. James and Lucretia wanted to see all slaves freed. In the mid 1800s when she bravely began her crusade, slavery occurred freely all over the inhabited part of the United States. Many realized its cruelty but others felt it necessary for their financial health. Lucretia attended the first meeting of national significance, the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. She was the only woman to say anything. Many prominent men lacked the nerve to speak at that meeting because in that year of 1833, those against slavery had a rough time. Many people mocked them, rioted against their meetings, and caused personal injuries. Lucretia Mott did not let fear stop her from doing what was right.

Both James and Lucretia became part of the Underground Railroad which secretly helped runaway slaves. One time a mob threw a brick at James Mott narrowly missing his head. Another time they housed the famous Henry “Box” Brown who had escaped slavery after being shipped to the anti-slavery office in Philadelphia.

Lucretia passionately spoke against slavery in church and helped form a woman’s anti-slavery association. She even went to London to an Anti-Slavery Convention. At the convention, the men in charge didn’t let her speak so she spent the time making friends with the other women. Later those friendships became valuable to her next cause.

The slavery issue became settled when the Civil War ended. Lucretia Mott then turned to the issue that the Anti-Slavery Convention in London had burdened her with. Not allowed to speak there, she realized that women needed to be treated more equally. She began to work for women’s rights and helped form the first convention on women’s rights in Seneca Falls, New York. They drafted a document which she was the first to sign saying that women should be treated fairly in the home, workplace, church, and government. In 1920, forty years after she died, Lucretia’s work led to the vote that gave women the right to vote. Because of Lucretia’s husband’s encouragement, Lucretia used her gifts to help change the world. 

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