On July 14, 1848, a group of women announced their plan for a women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. That effort led to the 19th Amendment, extending voting rights to women.
In honor of the upcoming centenial of the 19th Amendment ratification, we remember that both Lucretia Mott, in 1842, and Susan B. Anthony, in 1895, visited Goose Creek Meeting in Lincoln, Virginia. During her visit, Lucretia Mott spoke to a large audience of both Quakers but also Virginian slave owners on the horrors of enslaving their fellow humans. Her visit is discussed here. Smithsonian Magazine’s recent article gives Lucretia Mott attention for her life-long civil rights’ work. Writing about her former father-in-law, Samuel M. Janney, Eliza Janney Rawson made a brief reference to the visit of Lucretia and her husband James Mott to Goose Creek Meeting, November, 1842:
In 1848 Lucretia Mott would be one of the driving forces behind the Seneca Falls Convention, widely seen as an impetus to the women’s rights movement. Mott’s is the first name on the list of signers of the “Declaration of Sentiments” at the Seneca Falls Convention. James Mott was one of the “gentlemen” signers, as was Frederick Douglass, a close friend of Lucretia Mott’s.
Susan B. Anthony’s name is even more closely associated with the cause of women’s rights. She worked alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton and many others, including Lucretia Mott, to keep the issue before Congress and the public.
March 5, 1895, Susan B. Antony came to Goose Creek Meeting at the invitation the Quaker meeting’s “Philanthropic Committee.” Anthony spoke on the topic of women’s suffrage. Goose Creek Meeting minutes’ report: “The Philanthropic Committee report having engaged Susan B. Anthony to lecture in this house 3rd mo 5th & that the occasion was one full of interest & instruction.”
The National Archives collection includes the U.S. Congressional document granting women the right to vote. The Archives’ website includes this statement about the 19th Amendment: “Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote.
The 19th amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle; victory took decades of agitation and protest. Beginning in the mid-19th century, several generations of woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered a radical change of the Constitution. Few early supporters lived to see final victory in 1920.
Beginning in the 1800s, women organized, petitioned, and picketed to win the right to vote, but it took them decades to accomplish their purpose. Between 1878, when the amendment was first introduced in Congress, and August 18, 1920, when it was ratified, champions of voting rights for women worked tirelessly, but strategies for achieving their goal varied. Some pursued a strategy of passing suffrage acts in each state—nine western states adopted woman suffrage legislation by 1912. Others challenged male-only voting laws in the courts. Militant suffragists used tactics such as parades, silent vigils, and hunger strikes. Often supporters met fierce resistance. Opponents heckled, jailed, and sometimes physically abused them.
By 1916, almost all of the major suffrage organizations were united behind the goal of a constitutional amendment. When New York adopted woman suffrage in 1917 and President Wilson changed his position to support an amendment in 1918, the political balance began to shift.
On May 21, 1919, the House of Representatives passed the amendment, and 2 weeks later, the Senate followed. When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920, the amendment passed its final hurdle of obtaining the agreement of three-fourths of the states. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification on August 26, 1920, changing the face of the American electorate forever.”
Two giants in American civil rights history, Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony, both of whom paid dearly for their ahead-of-their-time leadership, were guests of the Quakers of Lincoln, Virginia. That fact says something about the women themselves but also about the intrepid little community at Goose Creek Meeting.