James Mott (1788-1868) was a Quaker leader, educator, and businessman as well as an advocate for anti-slavery and women’s rights. Born into a Quaker family in Cow Neck on Long Island, James became a teacher at Nine Partners School in Poughkeepsie, NY where his father was the superintendent. It was here that he met his more famous wife, Lucretia Coffin Mott, who was a student and then a teacher’s aid. They married in Philadelphia on April 10th, 1811.
James became a partner in a nail firm in Philadelphia that Lucretia’s father had set up. By 1822, after surviving the War of 1812 and the panic of 1819, James became a textile merchant, selling cotton cloth. When the Mott’s became Hicksite Quakers, which frowned upon any connection to the slave trade, James gave up his trade of cotton textiles, and by 1830 had transitioned into the selling of woolen textiles which were produced free of any slave labor.
James Mott was active in the anti-slavery movement, and was involved in many of the same events and conventions that his wife Lucretia was involved in. Together, they formed the Philadelphia Free Produce Society, which encouraged the establishment of free-produce stores that sold products made free of slave labor, and helped to educate the public about the boycott.
In 1848, both James and Lucretia Mott were integral in the planning and hosting of the First Women’s Rights Convention, held in Seneca Falls, NY on July 19th and 20th. While Lucretia took the role of a speaker at the convention, it was James who chaired the convention for the first day and part of the second day. This was the only women’s rights convention to ever have a male chair, as all of the subsequent conventions were chaired by women.
James Mott was one of the founders of Swarthmore College in 1864, one of the nation’s first coeducational colleges. He died of pneumonia in Brooklyn, NY in 1868 and is buried at Fair Hill Burial Ground in Philadelphia, PA.
Last updated: February 26, 2015