Today the Religion in American History blog posted an essay by Carol Faulkner, author of Lucretia Mott's Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America. In "Gender and the American Religious Historian: Seneca Falls Edition", Faulkner discusses the role of women in reform churches and Mott's radical activity within the Society of Friends. In July, Faulkner participated in the re-opening of the Wesleyan Chapel at the Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, NY–the site of the first women's rights convention in American history. Lucretia Mott, known as the “moving spirit” of the Seneca Falls convention, was more than an inspirational figure. Mott was a fierce advocate for women's rights and the end of slavery. According to Faulkner, her activism was an outrage, even within her own religious community.
What was so offensive about Lucretia Mott? Mott embraced an activist stance that she provocatively named heresy. Invoking the early Quakers, she saw it as a duty to agitate, particularly on the issue of slavery. And she argued that, “ecclesiastical power is always to be opposed, whether it appeared in the Pope of Rome or an Elder of a Quaker meeting” (quoted here). What made her so obnoxious to her Quaker and non-Quaker opponents, however, was that she refused to leave the Society of Friends, no matter how much they wanted her gone. Ironically, then, at the Seneca Falls Convention, held at a come-outer chapel, and attended by many anti-slavery come-outers, Mott was one of the few activists present who had not left her church.
The complete essay is available at usreligion.blogspot.com.