White Paper: Women Winning The Vote: Politics, Publications and Protests

Download Women Winning The Vote: Politics, Publications and ProtestsSo frequently, what might be seen as a relatively minor event becomes the pivot point in shifting the course of history. Mary Grew, an abolitionist and Quaker activist from Pennsylvania, was present at a June breakfast meeting between well-known Philadelphia abolitionist Lucretia Mott and Joseph Sturge, a British abolitionist and organizer of the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. The year was 1840. Mary Grew had accompanied her father, Henry Grew, a designated committee chair and delegate to the event being hosted by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. As would be reported in The Liberator later in the year:

 “When the committee just mentioned discovered that you had thought proper to appoint female delegates, (two of whom, Lucretia Mott and Sarah Pugh, were in attendance, and claimed an equal right with their brother delegates, to sit in the conference,) they sat in judgment upon your appointment , and decided that you had sent some representatives whom they could not recognize.”  [The Liberator, December 11, 1840.]

Not being recognized as delegates, the women were informed that they would not be seated with the larger body of delegates (as Mott’s husband would be) but rather would be seated as spectators in the gallery. Ira Vernon Brown in writing Grew’s biography tells the story this way:

On Saturday, 6 June, Joseph Sturge, who had masterminded the convention, breakfasted with the Pennsylvania women and begged them not to contest the decision of the London Committee denying them membership in the convention. “We endeavored to shew him the inconsistency of excluding Women Delegates,” Lucretia Mott wrote— “but soon found he had prejudged & made up his mind to act with our New Organization; therefore, all reasoning was lost upon him, and our appeals made in vain.”  [Page 46, Mary Grew, Abolitionist and Feminist, 1813-1896, Ira Vernon Brown, Susquehanna University Press, 1991.]

That relatively small indignity was sufficient motivation. Returning from that international event, Mott made the acquaintance of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the two women determined that they would plan and hold a women’s rights convention to make clear to the country the unfair treatment.

Learn more in our new white paper: Women Winning The Vote: Politics, Publications and Protests.

Download White Paper (PDF)

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