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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Lucretia Mott

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After some months of devoted Christian work, along with sight-seeing, Mr. and Mrs. Mott started homeward. He had spoken less frequently than his wife, but always had been listened to with deep interest. Her heart was moved toward a large number of Irish emigrants in the steerage, and she desired to hold a religious meeting among them. When asked about it, they said they would not hear a woman preacher, for women priests were not allowed in their church. Then she asked that they would come together and consider whether they would have a meeting. This seemed fair, and they came. She explained to them that she did not intend to hold a church service; that, as they were leaving their old homes and seeking new ones in her country, she wanted to talk with them in such a way as would help them in the land of strangers. And then, if they would listen,--they were all the time listening very eagerly,--she would give an outline of what she had intended to say, if the meeting had been held. At the close, when all had departed, it dawned upon some of the quicker-witted ones that they "had got the preachment from the woman preacher, after all."

The steamer arrived at the close of a twenty-nine days' voyage, and, after a brief rest, Mrs. Mott began again her public work. She spoke before the legislatures of New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. She called on President Tyler, and he talked with her cordially and freely about the slave. In Kentucky, says one of the leading papers, "For an hour and a half she enchained an ordinarily restless audience--many were standing--to a degree never surpassed here by the most popular orators. She said some things that were far from palatable, but said them with an air of sincerity that commanded respect and attention."

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Mrs. Mott was deeply interested in other questions besides slavery,--suffrage for women, total abstinence, and national differences settled by arbitration instead of war. Years before, when she began to teach school, and found that while girls paid the same tuition as boys, "when they became teachers, women received only half as much as men for their services," she says: "The injustice of this distinction was so apparent, that I early resolved to claim for myself all that an impartial Creator had bestowed."

In 1848, Mrs. Mott, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and some others, called the first Woman's Suffrage Convention in this country, at Seneca Falls, N.Y. There was much ridicule,--we had not learned, forty years ago, to treat with courtesy those whose opinions are different from our own,--but the sweet Quaker preacher went serenely forward, as though all the world were on her side. When she conversed with those who differed, she listened so courteously to objections, and stated her own views so delicately and kindly, and often so wittily, that none could help liking her, even though they did not agree with her. She realized that few can be driven, while many can be won with gentleness and tact.

In all these years of public speaking, her home was not only a refuge for the oppressed, but a delightful social centre, where prominent people gathered from both Europe and America. At the table black and white were treated with equal courtesy. One young man, a frequent visitor, finding himself seated at dinner next to a colored man, resolved to keep away from the house in future; but as he was in love with one of Mrs. Mott's pretty daughters, he found that his "principles" gave way to his affections. He renewed his visits, became a son-in-law, and, later, an ardent advocate of equality for the colored people.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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