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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Lucretia Mott

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Years ago I attended, at some inconvenience, a large public meeting, because I heard that Lucretia Mott was to speak. After several addresses, a slight lady, with white cap and drab Quaker dress, came forward. Though well in years, her eyes were bright; her smile was winsome, and I thought her face one of the loveliest I had ever looked upon. The voice was singularly sweet and clear, and the manner had such naturalness and grace as a queen might envy. I have forgotten the words, forgotten even the subject, but the benign presence and gracious smile I shall never forget.

Born among the quiet scenes of Nantucket, Jan. 3, 1793, Lucretia grew to girlhood with habits of economy, neatness, and helpfulness in the home. Her father, Thomas Coffin, was a sea-captain of staunch principle; her mother, a woman of great energy, wit, and good sense. The children's pleasures were such as a plain country home afforded. When Mrs. Coffin went to visit her neighbors, she would say to her daughters, "Now after you have finished knitting twenty bouts, you may go down cellar and pick out as many as you want of the smallest potatoes,--the very smallest,--and roast them in the ashes." Then the six little folks gathered about the big fireplace and enjoyed a frolic.

When Lucretia was twelve years old, the family moved to Boston. At first all the children attended a private school; but Captain Coffin, fearing this would make them proud, removed them to a public school, where they could "mingle with all classes without distinction." Years after Lucretia said, "I am glad, because it gave me a feeling of sympathy for the patient and struggling poor, which, but for this experience, I might never have known."

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A year later, she was sent to a Friends' boarding-school at Nine Partners, N.Y. Both boys and girls attended this school, but were not permitted to speak to each other unless they were near relatives; if so, they could talk a little on certain days over a certain corner of the fence, between the playgrounds! Such grave precautions did not entirely prevent the acquaintance of the young people; for when a lad was shut up in a closet, on bread and water, Lucretia and her sister supplied him with bread and butter under the door. This boy was a cousin of the teacher, James Mott, who was fond of the quick-witted school-girl, so that it is probable that no harm came to her from breaking the rules.

At fifteen, Lucretia was appointed an assistant teacher, and she and Mr. Mott, with a desire to know more of literature, and quite possibly more of each other, began to study French together. He was tall, with light hair and blue eyes, and shy in manner; she, petite, with dark hair and eyes, quick in thought and action, and fond of mirth. When she was eighteen and James twenty-one, the young teachers were married, and both went to her father's home in Philadelphia to reside, he assisting in Mr. Coffin's business.

The war of 1812 brought financial failure to many, and young Mott soon found himself with a wife and infant daughter to support, and no work. Hoping that he could obtain a situation with an uncle in New York State, he took his family thither, but came back disappointed. Finally he found work in a plow store at a salary of six hundred dollars a year.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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