Women's Rights
Special History Study
NPS Logo


Although the 1848 Women's Rights Convention is usually connected in the public mind with Seneca Falls, Quaker residents of the neighboring village of Waterloo played a pivotal role in the organization and support of the Convention. It was in Waterloo that the idea for the meeting first came to fruition, it was here that the Declaration of Sentiments was composed and written, and at least a quarter of the signers of that document were from Waterloo. Two of the major figures in this Seneca Falls/Waterloo connection were Thomas and Mary Ann McClintock.

The McClintocks arrived in Waterloo from Philadelphia in 1835-1836. [1] Various local histories give differing dates, though none is supported by independent documentation. In the December 15, 1836, edition of the Seneca Observer there appeared a notice that Thomas McClintock had purchased the drugstore of Samuel Lundy & Son, located on Main Street, just west of the Eagle Hotel on the corner of Main and Virginia Streets. McClintock continued to run the business as a drugstore, with the addition of a stationery and book section. [2] Three years later, he moved his business down one block to the easternmost store in the new commercial building owned by his new brother-in-law, Richard P. Hunt. [3] (This structure is still standing and is now known as the Semtner Building. See Illustration 12.) McClintock continued to rent this building until he left Waterloo sometime around 1856-1857. [4] The exact date of his departure is not known. Becker notes that Thomas and Mary Ann McClintock are described in an 1859 deed as being residents of Philadelphia, but he gives no indication as to how long they had been there. [5]

The house at 14 E. Williams Street in which the McClintocks presumably lived was also rented from R. P. Hunt. There is no documentation that positively establishes that this was the McClintock home except for a strong oral tradition and the 1856 inventory of Hunt's estate which refers to the lot as the McClintock House lot, so called, on the South Side of Williams Street." [6] At present, we can only assume that the McClintocks lived in this house, conveniently located behind Thomas second drugstore, for the duration of their 20-year stay in Waterloo.

The McClintocks left no records as to why they decided to move from Philadelphia to a fairly isolated village like Waterloo, but a quick survey shows some obvious family and philosophical ties. As noted earlier, Thomas McClintock was related by marriage to Richard P. Hunt, one of the most prominent and wealthiest residents of Waterloo. Thomas' sister Sarah married Hunt in 1837, dying five years later in 1842. [7] We do not know if Sarah came to Waterloo with her brother's family and there met Hunt, or if the Hunts and McClintocks were already acquainted, and the impending marriage was the reason for the move. In either case, it was obvious that the Hunts and the McClintocks maintained close social, religious, and economic ties once the McClintocks arrived.

Of more significance than the McClintocks connections with the Hunts were their ties with the radical Hicksite Quakers who had settled in and around Waterloo. Thomas McClintock had been a Quaker minister since 1835. An entry in a genealogical study indicates that Mary Ann McClintock was granted a certificate in 1820 when she was 20 years old, which may indicate that she too was an acknowledged Quaker Minister. [8] Both the McClintocks had been extremely active in militant Quaker activities in Philadelphia. Thomas was one of the originators of the Free Produce Society which advocated the boycott of any products such as cotton and sugar which had been produced through slave labor. The ads which he consistently placed in the Seneca Observer assured his customers that all of the products in his store were "Free from the labor of slaves." [9] The story is told that he sold antislavery, sugar-free fortune cookies in his store with messages similar to the following, "If slavery comes by color which God gave, Fortune may change and you become the slave." [10] Richard Hunt was also a strong abolitionist Quaker and mirrored his brother-in-law's convictions by organizing a woolen mill in Waterloo instead of a cotton one on the strength of his antislavery principles.

Disagreement over the issues of slavery and freedom of conscience came to a head in the Quaker community in 1828, resulting in a schism and the formation of the Hicksite Quakers. Radical abolitionist Quakers such as James and Lucretia Mott, and Thomas and Mary Ann McClintock, joined the Hicksites, believing that social action was a religious imperative, and that the dictates of an individual's conscience took precedence over those of any church authorities. Inherent in the Hicksite stance was the belief that women were equal to men in all spiritual and mental qualities. [11]

When the McClintocks arrived in Waterloo, they found an already established strong and active Hicksite group known as the Junius Meeting. Begun very early in the century, some of the leading families in the society were the Connells, the Dells, the Hunts, and the Pounds. [12] Many of these individuals would later sign the Declaration of Sentiments. Their meeting house was outside of Waterloo along what is now Nine Foot Road. Although the building is now gone, the cemetery can still be seen. During the 1830s and 1840s, the Quaker meeting house, like the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, established a reputation for welcoming abolitionist and reform speakers. One individual asserted that:

perhaps no other church edifice in old Junius re-echoed to the voices of more of the old anti-slavery leaders than did the old Quaker church. Notably among those who were prominent as agitators, and who here received audience while they portrayed the iniquity of African slavery in our free land, we would mention William Lloyd Garrison, Gerrit Smith, Sojurner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and others who held forth here many times. [13]

In spite of this evidence of their liberal mindedness, Thomas McClintock felt that many members of the Junius Meeting were still not active enough on social issues, and that the church Elders were violating the rights of individual consciences when they forbade certain reform activities. Both Thomas and Mary Ann established themselves in leadership positions in the Society, and attempted to liberalize their fellow Friends. Thomas continued as a minister and served as the clerk for the Yearly Meeting from 1839-1841 while Mary Ann was assistant clerk for the Women's Yearly Meeting from 1839-1841. [14] Their agitation for a more active participation in the reform movements of the day began to polarize the Society, until the McClintocks and 200 like-minded Friends finally broke away from the already liberal Hicksite Quakers in 1848 to form the ultra-liberal Congregational or Progressive Friends. [15] It is interesting to note that all of this activity was happening between June and October of 1848, just at the time of the Convention in Seneca Falls. At least half of the Waterloo residents who signed the Declaration of Sentiments were members of the new Progressive Friends. [16]

While not particularly radical today, the tenets of the Progressive Friends were quite shocking to some. The Progressive Friends disavowed not only the need for church hierarchies or specific creeds, but pledged themselves to establishing "a Universal Church, emphatically the Church of Humanity, the portals of which may be open to Christian, Jew, Mohammedon and Pagan." [17] The emphasis was to be on practical reform rather than unity of doctrine or belief. Improving and elevating the human condition was considered much more important than quibbling over theological or liturgical details.

The guidelines for the new Society was a document written by Thomas McClintock, entitled, "Basis of Religious Association." (See Appendix G.) In it, he declares that "perfect liberty of conscience, is the right of every sane and accountable human being," [18] thereby claiming the right to engage actively in social reform if his conscience told him he must do so. Very importantly for our purposes, he also insisted that in the Progressive Friends, "not only will the equality of women be recognized, but so perfectly, that in our meetings, larger and smaller, men and women will meet together and transact business jointly." [19] Even the liberal Hicksites had always maintained separate meetings and worship services for men and women.

The attitude of the local, conservative Quakers to the zealous reformers in their midst is neatly summed up by one who wrote, "This place [Waterloo] has been much affected as far as religion is concerned by a kind of ranterism. The trouble first commenced among those who professed to be Friends, by their taking very active measures out of Society on the subject of slavery, and uniting and mixing with almost everything however absurd, until they left Society for larger liberty." [20]

In keeping with their advanced thinking, the McClintocks continued their "ranterism" after the split, and led active and highly visible lives in the village. At the time of the Convention, both Thomas and Mary Ann were 48 years of age, with four daughters ranging in age from 16 to 27. [21] (A son was apparently no longer living at home.) In addition to their work with the Progressive Friends, all six of them were active in one way or another with antislavery petition drives, temperance meetings, and abolitionist fund raising fairs. An 1843 notice in the county paper for instance, announced that "the weekly meeting of the Washington Independant Temperance Society of Waterloo, will be held on Tuesday evening at T. McClintocks School Room." [22] There is no indication whether the school room mentioned was a meeting place connected with the drugstore, or whether it was a room at the McClintock House. The possibility certainly exists, however, that frequent gatherings occurred in the McClintock house connected with a wide range of reform activities. (See Illustration 16 and Illustration 17.)

McClintock House
Illustration 16. The McClintock House, c. 1879. Photograph taken from A History of Waterloo, John Becker.

McClintock family
Illustration 17. Three members (Mary Ann McClintock, Mary McClintock, Thomas McClintock) of the McClintock family. Photographs taken from A History of Waterloo, John Becker.

The 1850 census records also provide some interesting clues on the family's convictions. Elizabeth McClintock, who worked as a clerk in her father's store, has her occupation listed on the census form, the only woman in Waterloo to be identified as a wage earner. While there were undoubtedly other women in the village who earned a living, only Elizabeth McClintock apparently felt strongly enough about the issue to insist on this documentation.

The 1850 census also lists three non-relatives as living in the McClintock house: a 16-year-old male clerk who presumably worked at the drugstore, a 17-year-old Black girl, and an 8-year-old mulatto child. Knowing the McClintocks strong humanitarian and abolitionist sympathies, it seems reasonable to assume that these two girls were fugitive slaves being protected by the family rather than servants. The eight-year-old child certainly was not hired help. The fact that Richard Hunt is known to have been active in the Underground Railroad lends credance to this supposition. [23]

In any case, there can be no doubt that the McClintocks, parents and daughters, were fully committed to the myriad of reform movements swirling around upstate New York in the early 19th century. It comes as no surprise that they were intimately involved in the 1848 Women's Rights Convention, and among its main supporters.

It is not clear exactly when Elizabeth Cady Stanton first met Mary Ann McClintock, but it is generally assumed that it was before the historic July 13 meeting at Richard Hunt's house where the call for the Convention was written. Stanton wrote in the History of Woman Suffrage that while she lived in Seneca Falls she found "the most congenial associations in Quaker families," [24] in nearby Waterloo. It seems unlikely that she would not have known the McClintocks, arguably the most active Quakers in the area. In her autobiography, she states only that "I received an invitation to spend the day with Lucretia Mott, at Richard Hunt's, in Waterloo. There I met several members of different families of Friends, earnest, thoughtful women." [25]

The women she met there were Lucretia Mott, Mott's sister Martha Wright, Jane Hunt, and Mary Ann McClintock. [26] All of the women except for Stanton were Quakers. In fact, part of the reason that Lucretia Mott was in the area was to attend the Yearly Meeting of Friends of Western New York. [27] This was the same Meeting at which the Progressive Quakers were declaring their intentions to secede from the Hicksites. Four of the five women at this meeting were therefore planning one social revolution while embroiled in the midst of another. Their heightened sensibilities over the inequities among the Friends probably helped to solidify their thinking on the related issue of Women's Rights, and made them doubly receptive to Elizabeth Cady Stanton's concerns. As Stanton described it:

I poured out, that day, the torrent of my long-accumulating discontent, with such vehemence and indignation that I stirred myself, as well as the rest of the party, to do and dare anything. My discontent, according to Emerson, must have been healthy, for it moved us all to prompt action, and we decided, then and there, to call a 'Woman's Rights Convention.' We wrote the call that evening and published it in the Seneca County Courier the next day, the 14th of July, 1848, giving only five days' notice, as the convention was to be held on the 19th and 20th. The call was inserted without signatures,—in fact it was a mere announcement of a meeting,—but the chief movers and managers were Lucretia Mott, Mary Ann McClintock, Jane Hunt, Martha C. Wright, and myself." [28]

According to Lucretia Mott, the "chief movers and managers" were Stanton and the McClintocks. Writing to Stanton in March 1855, she recalled "when James and self were attending the Yearly Meeting at Waterloo, in 1848 was it? thou again proposed the convention which was afterward held at Seneca Falls. I have never liked the undeserved praise in the Report of that meeting's proceedings, of being 'the moving spirit of that occasion', when to thyself belongs the honor aided so efficiently by the McClintocks." [29]

Stanton found Mary Ann McClintock to be a valuable assistant in organizing the Convention. With her three years' experience as the clerk of the Quaker Women's Meeting, and long familiarity with reform work, she no doubt provided both spiritual and mental support to the relatively inexperienced Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton reports that the women reassembled a few days later "in Mrs. McClintocks parlor to write their declaration, resolutions, and to consider subjects for speeches." [] The task proved to be much more difficult than they had anticipated. Stanton recalled that:

they felt as helpless and hopeless as if they had been suddenly asked to construct a steam engine. . . . The reports of Peace, Temperance, and Anti-Slavery concentrations were examined, but all alike seemed too tame and pacific for the inauguration of a rebellion such as the world had never before seen. . . . After much delay, one of the circle took up the Declaration of 1776, and read it aloud with much spirit and emphasis, and it was at once decided to adopt the historic document, with some slight changes such as substituting 'all men' for 'King George'. . . . Several well-disposed men assisted in collecting the grievances, until, with the announcement of the eighteenth, the women felt they had enough to go before the world with a good case. [31]

All six of the McClintocks showed their support for the Convention by attending the sessions, and bringing all of their Progressive Quaker friends with them. Rhoda Palmer, a Waterloo Quaker and one of the signers of the Declaration, testified as to the success of their recruiting efforts. "I think without exception that every member [of the Waterloo Quaker meeting] was present." [32] At least one quarter of the signers of the Declaration were Quakers. [33] Among them were Thomas and Mary Ann McClintock, and their two eldest daughters, Mary and Elizabeth.

The McClintocks involvement also extended to active participation in the Convention itself. Mary McClintock was appointed secretary for the proceedings, and on the last evening of the conference "delivered a short, but impressive, address calling upon woman to arouse from her lethargy and be true to herself and her God." [34] Her sister Elizabeth delivered an address at the close of the first day's session, and served along with her mother on the committee appointed to prepare a report of the proceedings for publication. Mary Ann McClintock participated in the discussions and debates throughout the conference. A 13-year-old member of the audience was spellbound by the impressive McClintock women, and never forgot the impact they had upon her at that first Convention. Many years later she remembered Mary Ann as "a dignified Quaker matron with four daughters around her, two of whom took active part in the proceedings. These ladies, Elizabeth and Mary McClintoc [sic], were beautiful women, with dignified and self-possessed manners not often seen in women brought up as they were in a country town of that day." [35]

Thomas McClintock was also a highly visible figure at the Convention. Elizabeth Cady Stanton noted that he "took part throughout in the discussions." [36] He acted as the chairman of the final session, during which he also made a strong speech "in proof of woman's servitude to man" [37] by reading a series of repressive laws then on the books. (See Illustration 17.)

The McClintocks continued to be actively involved in the movement they had helped to start. When the second Women's Rights Convention opened in Rochester three weeks later, we know that both Mary Ann and Elizabeth were in attendance. [38] Other members of the family may have also been present but their names are not mentioned in the published report. Abigail Bush was chosen to be president of the meeting, but surprisingly enough, Elizabeth McClintock declined her nomination to be secretary because she was "unprepared to have a woman the presiding officer." [39] Mary Ann McClintock, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott all agreed with her that it was a most hazardous experiment . . . and stoutly opposed it." [40] James Mott, remember, had chaired the Seneca Falls Convention.

In spite of their ardent convictions concerning the equality of the sexes, these four pioneers of the movement feared that they, with "such feeble voices and timed manners, without the slightest knowledge of Cushing's Manual, or the least experience in public meetings," [41] would only bring ridicule down upon their heads if they attempted to run the proceedings themselves. Stanton admitted that they "were on the verge of leaving the Convention in disgust," [42] but were reluctantly persuaded to stay by their more daring compatriots. Bush's calm demeanor and self-assurance "soon reconciled the opposition to the seemingly ridiculous experiment," [43] and the Convention proceeded on to the business at hand.

Though still preferring not to act as secretary, Elizabeth McClintock made several presentations at the Convention. During the afternoon session, she read excerpts from a sermon that the pastor of the Seneca Falls Presbyterian Church had preached on the Sunday following the first Convention. In it, he had condemned the Declaration of Sentiments and the women's rights movement in no uncertain terms. Elizabeth answered his charges by reading the reply that she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had co-written and published in the local papers. [44] At the request of Lucretia Mott, she also read a lively satirical poem called "The Times That Try Men's Souls" that had been written by Maria W. Chapman in answer to a pastoral letter from the Massachusetts clergy signed "Lords of Creation." [45]

Surviving records on the McClintocks are fragmentary at best, but we do know that they continued to be very active in the Progressive Quaker Societies through the 1850s. Given their deep involvement in the early abolitionist and women's rights movements, it seems highly unlikely that they would suddenly drop these projects after 1848, though their names appear less frequently in the available records. Their connections with the Progressive Quakers who by definition advocated total equality in all spheres, certainly indicates that they retained a passionate belief in these ideals. The lack of documentation on their activities is surely due more to the fragmentary nature of the data available for this study, than any lack of activity on the part of the preeminently active McClintocks.

We do know that at one point, Thomas and Mary Ann were travelling around the state preaching on behalf of the Progressive philosophy. In an 1849 letter to a friend, Lucretia Mott sends the following message, "Say to Thos. McClintock please, that I have a letter from Nathaniel Baeney of Nan't enclosing $10.00 for him or rather for Congregational Quakerism in Waterloo and other neighborhoods. Tell him also that about the middle of next month, I hope to join him and Mary Ann in helping to congregationalize Dutchess and Ulster and Westchester Counties, and hope that Long Island may unite in the movement." [46]

In 1855, the New York Progressives met in Waterloo for their Annual Meeting. The report of their proceedings shows that they had lost none of their reforming zeal in the seven years since their founding.

With Thomas McClintock and Rhoda DeGarmo acting as clerks for the gathering, they passed resolutions condemning war, calling for the humane treatment of prisoners, and advocating a liberal educational system. On the subject of women's rights, they resolved "that women are by nature entitled to equality with men in all the relations of human life, whether social, religious, educational, or pecuniary; and that we regard the Woman's Rights Movement, so called, as worthy of our hearty sympathy and earnest co-operation." [47] At that same meeting, Mary Ann McClintock was placed on a committee with Elizabeth Cady Stanton to examine "the Rights, Duties and Responsibilities of Woman," and to report on their findings at the next meeting. [48]

By the next year, 1856, Thomas and Mary Ann McClintock had left Waterloo to return to Philadelphia. [49] We do not know exactly when they left, why, nor how many members of their immediate family accompanied them. It is interesting to note that the activities of the Progressive Friends in Waterloo began to slacken at this time, and that by the early 1860s, references to them no longer appear in the Quaker records. [50] Whether the McClintocks departure had anything to do with this demise, it is impossible at this point to say. Both Thomas and Mary Ann remained in Philadelphia until their deaths, Thomas dying in 1875 at age 75, Mary Ann in 1884 at age 84. [51]

The importance of the McClintock family's involvement in the early Women's Rights Movement and the Seneca Falls Convention is well established by the surviving records. Without their practical support and the backing of their large circle of reform-minded Friends, Elizabeth Cady Stanton might never had gotten the Convention off the ground.

Among themselves, the Progressive Quakers had already accepted the tenets of equal rights for women, and were eager to help Stanton present those enlightened ideas to a wider audience. Their zealous commitment "to do all that we can to remove from the road of human progress the barriers of bigotry and superstition; to enter our protest against the evils which oppress and degrade humanity," [52] insured that they would be in the front line of any battle against social injustice. It was Elizabeth Cady Stanton's great good fortune to have a large body of these dedicated reformers near at hand to lend the moral and material support she would need in her battle for women's rights.

Important Sources of Information and Suggestions for Further Research

1. As far as we know, there are no McClintock Family Papers. What we know of them has largely been derived from Conference Reports and Proceedings. The Quaker records, and paper by Judith Wellman mentioned under "Suggestions for Further Research" at the end of the chapter on the Hunt House, can also supply additional information on the McClintocks.

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 10-Dec-2005