This photograph of Philadelphia abolitionists who made up the executive committee of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society includes the famous activist, Lucretia Mott, seated second from the right. The photograph was taken in 1851, eighteen years after the founding of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS). Standing left to right are Mary Crew, Edward M. Davis, Haworth Wetherald, Abigail Kimber, Miller McKim, and Sarah Pugh. Seated left to right are Oliver Johnson, Margaret Jones Burleigh, Benjamin C. Bacon, Robert Purvis, Mott, and James Mott. When the organization was founded in 1833, sixty-four men joined, but women were not admitted to its membership. Mott and other Philadelphia women were at the founding of the AASS and commented on the organization's declaration of sentiments. This impressed many of the men in attendance and they urged the women to form their own antislavery society. Less than a week later, the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (PFASS) was founded in December 1833.
The PFASS was not the first female abolitionist organization, but it was one of the most prominent. Many members, such as Mott, became internationally famous for their activism. Members of the PFASS also focused on gender equality. The group was notorious for its open-minded policies. From its inception, the organization allowed both white and African American women to join. As a group, they repeatedly petitioned Congress to ban slavery in Washington, D.C., and other federally-owned areas. Beginning in 1836, the PFASS held an annual fair to sell baked goods and handmade items to raise money for its cause. The PFASS sponsored the second annual Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women in Philadelphia in 1838. At the meeting, men and women, white and African American, mixed freely. Female speakers at the convention addressed audiences that contained both men and women. These two aspects of the convention were considered extremely radical at the time. A mob gathered outside of Pennsylvania Hall, where the convention was being held, and eventually broke in and dispersed the meetings. Undaunted by the violence, the women of Philadelphia sponsored the event again the next year. A few days after the 1839 meeting in Philadelphia, the AASS allowed women to join its organization and Mott soon gained a prominent role.
In 1840 Mott and other members of the AASS traveled to London for the World's Anti-Slavery Convention, which refused to seat the women with official male delegates. While in London, Mott met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, another activist. The two formed a friendship that led to the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, the first meeting in the United States to address woman's rights.
1. Who was Lucretia Mott?
2. Why was the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society founded?
3. What happened at the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840?
1. In 1839 the American Anti-Slavery Society allowed women to join. Why did they not do this at their founding in 1833? What do you think had helped changed their perceptions of women as activists in the intervening period?
Brown, Ira V. “Cradle of Feminism: The Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, 1833–1840” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 102, no. 2 (1978): 143–166.