The Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

Martha Coffin Wright[1] to SBA

My dear Miss Anthony

Your letter, enclosing form of Petition awaited me on my return from Cincinnati, and I take the earliest opportunity to reply— [2] Your proposition for the gratuitous distribution of tracts seems to me a good one, as by that means, some may be induced to inform themselves what it is that is demanded— much of the opposition encountered, arises from utter ignorance, and there are few who are willing to pay for being enlightened— for such, I think Ann Preston's Address before the West Chester Convention one of the best that has been written— [3]
You dont know how much we missed you at the recent Convention, your practi[cal] business statements come in always so opportunely— we all regretted that you were not there, & were sorry for the cause—  I hope the rest that you have taken will restore you, and that you will be careful not to overtax yourself in future— I wish there were more new advocates of the cause, to relieve those who have heretofore worked so zealously, such as Mrs. Rose Lucy & yourself—  What a pity it is that Mrs. Stanton has been unable to attend the Conventions that she would have enjoyed so much—  All went off very well at Cincinnati Mrs Rose, Mrs Gage[4] & Lucy, all speaking admirably, as usual—  My sister[5] too, took part, tho' she has suffered so much lately with Dyspepsia that she was not capable of much exertion—  It was, I assure you, with many misgivings that I consented to serve as President, when she & Mrs. Rose were present, and would have been so much more suitable, but as they were needed as speakers, there seemed to be no choice left me, and I got along without committing any very material blunders;— as there was no opposition, there was less to call forth ones energies, than at Saratoga— [6] The Convention, it seemed to me, was not quite so interesting as there, the attendance being small, but those who were there seemed interested, and the Reports in the daily papers pretty fair, much less of ridicule, than formerly—  We were fortunate in [ha]ving very good weather, but the Hall was cold the first morning, and some of us took very severe colds; my sister lost her voice at Indianapolis, and could not take any part, and I have not yet recovered from my cold—
Your sister Mary performed her part well and I heard her commended for the quiet dignity with which she stood at the door, commanding the respect of those who sneer at woman's taking any public position— [7] She left before we did, and Lucy, in assisting her to pack, in my room, gathered up my comb, so that when I went to dress for tea, I was in almost as bad a plight as Sampson,[8] for he probably had a comb without the locks, while I had the locks without the comb— however I made out, hoping that when my sister stopped at Rochester she would send it by her—
The petition I will circulate next week, after the election is over, as we think people may sign more willingly then. People are getting a little more accustomed to the demand for the Right of suffrage, & will soon cease to ridicule.
I am expecting my Brother & Sister next week, to stay a day or two—  They are at Toledo now. With many good wishes [for] your restoration & c I am very truly Your friend

M. C. Wright.

P.S. Ellen desires remembrance to you—  She retains a very pleasant recollection of Saratoga, & would have been glad to accompany me to Cincinnati—  She wrote a few lines to you, which I gave to Mary— [9]
ALS, Garrison Papers, MNS-S. Letters supplied in square brackets were torn from the manuscript.
    [1.] Martha Coffin Pelham Wright (1806-1875) lived at Auburn with her husband David Wright, a lawyer, their six children, and her daughter from a previous marriage. She had married, at age eighteen, an army captain from Kentucky named Peter Pelham and moved with him to Florida. Two years later she was back in Philadelphia, a widow and a mother. After a stint teaching, she married David Wright in 1829, and they settled in New York State, where her sister, Lucretia Mott, often visited. The two sisters attended the woman's rights convention at Seneca Falls together, and from then until the end of her life, Wright was in the inner circle of woman's rights leaders. An avid letter writer and a wit, she left a valuable archives of correspondence on woman's rights and woman suffrage. (Notable American Women; Hallowell, James and Lucretia Mott.)
    [2.] On 22 October 1855 the New York Daily Tribune published a brief, undated appeal about circulating petitions again "for the restoration of woman's legal and political rights." It called especially upon men and women who attended the fifty-four county meetings of the previous winter "to constitute themselves agents and engage in the work right earnestly and speedily." (Film, 8:294.) In Cincinnati Martha Wright presided at the Sixth National Woman's Rights Convention, held October 17-18. SBA missed the convention because she had worn herself out and developed back pains. After overseeing the woman's rights meeting at Saratoga Springs in mid-August, she headed to the Worcester Water-Cure Institution of her cousin Seth Rogers in Massachusetts and stayed east until the end of November. (History, 1:163-67, 819-20; Lily, October 1855; SBA to Anthony family, 27 September 1855, and SBA to Amy K. Post, 1 October 1855, in Film, 8:284-87, 290-93; Anthony, 1:131-36; Weiss and Kemble, Great American Water-Cure Craze, 129-30.)
    [3.] Ann Preston (1813-1872) was an 1851 graduate of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania where she remained for postgraduate study and became a professor of physiology and hygiene in 1853. Wright refers to her Address Adopted by the Woman's Rights Convention, Held at West Chester, Pa., June 2d and 3d, 1852, published as a pamphlet in 1852. (Notable American Women; History, 1:360-64.)
    [4.] Frances Dana Barker Gage (1808-1884) was a lecturer and author. Raised in Ohio, she married James Gage in 1829 and bore eight children. She began to write for newspapers about 1850 and developed the persona of "Aunt Fanny," whose letters appeared regularly in the Ohio Cultivator. Heeding the call from the Salem convention in 1850, she gathered petitions to the constitutional convention for equal suffrage rights, and the next year she presided over the convention at Akron. From 1853 until 1860 she and her family lived in St. Louis. Before the Civil War she joined state campaigns in Ohio and New York, and she also toured the West Indies to learn about emancipation. During the war, Gage and her daughter Mary moved to the Sea Islands of South Carolina to work with former slaves. She was active in the American Equal Rights Association in 1866, but accidents and a stroke limited her to writing in her final decades. (Notable American Women.)
    [5.] Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793-1880) was one of the country's most respected abolitionists and a leader and minister among Hicksite Quakers. Born on Nantucket and educated at the Nine Partners School of the Society of Friends, she was married in 1811 to her fellow student James Mott (1788-1868), who became a merchant in Philadelphia. There she raised five children. Intensely religious but an independent thinker, she left the orthodox Friends because she believed that responsibility for a righteous life rested on the individual, guided by an unmediated understanding of the word of God. That commitment to individualism carried her into the antislavery movement where she was noted for her work for racial justice in the North as well as abolition in the South. Mott provided the bridge between the abolitionist and woman's rights movements, both by the example of her own intellect and by her network of friends. (Notable American Women; Hallowell, James and Lucretia Mott; Cromwell, Lucretia Mott; Bacon, Valiant Friend.)
    [6.] Wright presided at Saratoga Springs in August.
    [7.] Mary Stafford Anthony collected the admission fees at the evening sessions. Lucy Stone wrote to SBA, "Harry says, 'it was a perfect picture,' the way she did it— I feel under great obligation to her, both for the example, and for her service—" Anthony (1827-1907) lived in Rochester with her parents, working as a teacher and principal in the city's schools, keeping house for her mother and sister, and taking what part she could beside SBA as a reformer. She joined her sister as an agitator at New York teachers' meetings and accompanied her to woman's rights conventions. In her retirement Mary was an officer of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association, and she managed the state headquarters for the suffrage amendment campaign of 1894. According to her obituary, "If the elder [sister] had more oratorical ability, the younger certainly had more executive ability; but there the marked differences ended." (M. S. Anthony to SBA, 1 October 1843, and L. Stone to SBA, 2 November 1855, Film, 6:491-94, 8:298-309; Anthony, Anthony Family, 173; Rochester Post Express, 6 February 1907.)
    [8.] To deprive him of his extraordinary strength, Samson's enemies cut off his hair. (Judg. 16.)
    [9.] Ellen Wright (1840-1931), later Garrison, was the second daughter of Martha and David Wright. She attended Theodore Weld's Eagleswood School in the 1850s and studied music for a time before her marriage to William Lloyd Garrison, Jr., on 14 September 1864. Grown fond of SBA while still a teenager, Ellen Wright corresponded with her from 1858 until 1905 and, as Mrs. Garrison, provided her a home on visits to Boston. (Wright genealogy, Garrison Papers, MNS-S.)