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Readings for Reflection: December 2013
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

Causes and Sources of Poverty

Lucretia Mott (1793–1880) was an American Quaker, abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and social reformer. Her interest in women’s rights began when she discovered that male teachers at the Nine Partners Quaker Boarding School where she taught were paid three times as much as the female staff. Lucretia considered slavery to be evil and refused to use cotton cloth, cane sugar, and other slavery-produced goods. In 1830 Lucretia and other white and black women founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. She was able to maintain a thriving household with her husband, James, and six children while simultaneously contributing to several causes.

The following piece is actually three excerpts from Margaret Hope Bacon’s
Valiant Friend: The Life of Lucretia Mott, tied together and read by Gladys McKenney when she was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in October 2013.


Is it not delightful to find so many fine minds and good people in the world? I am constantly combating the doctrine of human depravity and preaching instead the doctrine of the innate purity of humankind. [However,] it is not enough to be generous, and give alms to the poor. The enlarged soul, the true philanthropist, is compelled by Christian principle to look beyond the bestowing of a scant pittance to the beggar of the day. We must look beyond that to our duty to consider the causes and sources of poverty. We must consider how much WE ourselves have done toward causing the poverty.

The oppression of the working-classes by existing monopolies and the lowness of their wages often engages my attention, and I have held many meetings with the workers and heard their appeals with compassion. [On the other hand], it is contrary to the spirit of this Republic that any persons should be so rich as some are. I have a great desire for a radical change in the system which makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.


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