A year after the Seneca Falls Convention, Lucretia Mott was continuing her speaking tours around the country working for women’s rights. In 1849, she attended a lecture by Richard Henry Dana, Sr. that criticized the budding women’s right movement. She was most concerned that the speech was “replete with intellectual beauty, and containing much that was true and excellent, was yet fraught with sentiments calculated to retard the progress of women to the highest elevation destined by her Creator.” Being a skilled orator herself, Lucretia Mott felt the best response was a rebuttal speech.
She used reasoned arguments and concrete examples of women in the Bible who are treated as equals in the scriptures. She makes a solid case for women preachers by naming Biblical women who were looked upon as great counselors and spiritual leaders. She argues that it is only by using “perverted applications of the text” that it is considered improper for women to speak before assemblies. She declared that it is society, and not the Word of God, that has restricted the role of women.
She mentions the heroism of historical women in battle as well as the courage of contemporaries who are helping the poor and the sick. She highlights the unfairness of laws that make women the property of their husbands, by eliminating their legal rights as an individual once they marry: “The legal theory is, that marriage makes the husband and wife one person, and that person is the husband.” She also makes a solid argument for equal education.
Her “Discourse on Women” speech is was so gentle, rational, and ultimately persuasive, that it was published as a pamphlet in 1850. Excerpts were use in newspapers, literally magazines, and sermons. It is considered to be a foundational piece of the suffrage movement.
Bonus: This week’s quote is by Jarena Lee. Born as a free Black in New Jersey, she became a well-known preacher who repeatedly challenged the ban on women as preachers. She is also is the first Black woman to have an autobiography published in America.
This week’s song pick:
“Speak Up” by Jocelyn https://youtu.be/sGB6mEfokCg
Episode 09 Sources:
To read the entire “Discourse on Women” speech click this link: