The Underground Railroad and the First Women's Rights Convention

On July 9, 1848 Jane Hunt, Mary Ann M’Clintock, Martha Wright, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton met in Waterloo, New York. After discussing the social position of women, the group decided to hold the First Women’s Rights Convention in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York.

The organizers purposely chose familiar titles and phrases to present their radical ideas for equality to the audience. In preparing the program for the First Women’s Rights Convention, the organizers borrowed rhetoric from the movement to end slavery. The document read and discussed at the convention, “The Declaration of Sentiments,” borrowed its title from the anti-slavery movement. The organizers modeled their document after the Declaration of Independence, just as the American Anti-Slavery Society had in its 1831 founding constitution. Many key participants of the Seneca Falls Convention were seasoned abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass, Amy Post, and Lucretia and James Mott.

Two convention organizers from Waterloo, Mary Ann M’Clintock and Jane Hunt were involved with the Underground Railroad. In 1836 the M’Clintock family moved to upstate New York from Philadelphia. Thomas, Mary Ann, and their daughters Mary Ann and Elizabeth all worked within the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society and raised funds for the Underground Railroad. Their home at 14 East Williams Street is considered a station on the Underground Railroad. Richard and Jane Hunt were also well known abolitionists, who invested and managed a factory that specialized in woolen textiles as a boycott of slave-labor cotton. It was widely known that Richard Hunt made his carriage house available to poor travelers in need of “lodging”: that is, the carriage house building was used as a station on the Underground Railroad.

From Auburn New York, December 30, 1860, Martha Wright wrote in a letter to her sister:

…We have been expending our sympathies, as well as congratulations, on seven newly arrived slaves that Harriet Tubman has just pioneered safely from the Southern Part of Maryland.--One woman carried a baby all the way and bro’t [sic] two other chld’n that Harriet and the men helped along. They bro’t a piece of old comfort and a blanket, in a basket with a little kindling, a little bread for the baby with some laudanum to keep it from crying during the day. They walked all night carrying the little ones, and spread the old comfort on the frozen ground, in some dense thicket where they all hid, while Harriet went out foraging, and sometimes cd not get back till dark, fearing she wd be followed. Then, if they had crept further in, and she couldn’t find them, she wd whistle, or sing certain hymns and they wd answer.

It is not clear from this letter whether or not Martha Wright was directly involved as a station master, but it certainly establishes her as an agent or stockholder by her privileged knowledge of Underground Railroad activities in her town of Auburn.

Underground Road?
African American Participation in the Underground Railroad
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Underground Railroad
"In defense of Woman and the Slave..."
Significant Events of the Underground Railroad

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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