Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
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."
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