Martha Coffin Wright

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Martha Coffin Wright
Martha Coffin Wright
BornDecember 25, 1806 (1806-12-25)
Died1875 (1876) (aged 68)
Residence Auburn, New York
OccupationAmerican activist
Spouse(s)Peter Pelham
David Wright
Relatives Lucretia Coffin Mott (sister)
William Lloyd Garrison, Jr. (son-in-law)

Martha Coffin Wright (December 25, 1806 – 1875) was an American feminist, abolitionist, and signatory of the Declaration of Sentiments who was a close friend and supporter of Harriet Tubman.

Abolitionism in the United States Movement to end slavery in the United States

Abolitionism in the United States was the movement before and during the American Civil War to end slavery in the United States. In the Americas and western Europe, abolitionism was a movement to end the Atlantic slave trade and set slaves free. In the 17th century, enlightenment thinkers condemned slavery on humanistic grounds and English Quakers and some Evangelical denominations condemned slavery as un-Christian. At that time, most slaves were Africans, but thousands of Native Americans were also enslaved. In the 18th century, as many as six million Africans were transported to the Americas as slaves, at least a third of them on British ships to North America. The colony of Georgia originally abolished slavery within its territory, and thereafter, abolition was part of the message of the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s in the Thirteen Colonies.

Declaration of Sentiments

The Declaration of Sentiments, also known as the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments, is a document signed in 1848 by 68 women and 32 men—100 out of some 300 attendees at the first women's rights convention to be organized by women. Held in Seneca Falls, New York, the convention is now known as the Seneca Falls Convention. The principal author of the Declaration was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who modeled it upon the United States Declaration of Independence. She was a key organizer of the convention along with Lucretia Coffin Mott, and Martha Coffin Wright.

Harriet Tubman African-American abolitionist

Harriet Tubman was an American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made some thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved people, family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped abolitionist John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry. During the American Civil War, she served as an armed scout and spy for the United States Army. In her later years, Tubman was an activist in the struggle for women's suffrage.


Early life

Martha Coffin was born in Boston, Massachusetts on Christmas Day 1806, the youngest child of Anna Folger and Thomas Coffin, a merchant and former Nantucket ship captain. After the Coffin family moved to Philadelphia, Martha was educated at Quaker schools. Martha Coffin Wright was the youngest of eight children some of her well-known siblings names were Sarah, Lucretia, Eliza, Mary, and Thomas. All of her siblings were born in Nantucket and she was the only born in Boston. When she was two years old, Martha moved to Philadelphia and lived there for a total of 15 years. While living in Philadelphia, she was influenced by her elder sisters and her mother. Her father died in 1815, at the age of 48, because he contracted typhus fever. After, spending 15 years in Philadelphia Martha moved to upstate New York where she lived for many years. She moved to Aurora, New York which is located near the Finger Lakes in November 1827. Martha's eldest sister Anna was a huge influence on the person she was. Anna was the one who sent Martha to school at the Westcott Boarding School in 1821. This was the same school that her three other siblings attended 10 years earlier. [1]

Aurora, Cayuga County, New York Village in New York, United States

Aurora, or Aurora-on-Cayuga, is a village and college town in the town of Ledyard, Cayuga County, New York, United States, on the shore of Cayuga Lake. The village had a population of 724 at the 2010 census.

Finger Lakes group of lakes in New York, USA

The Finger Lakes are a group of 11 long, narrow, roughly north–south lakes in an area informally called the Finger Lakes region in Central New York, in the United States. This region straddles the northern and transitional edge, known as the Finger Lakes Uplands and Gorges ecoregion, of the Northern Allegheny Plateau and the Ontario Lowlands ecoregion of the Great Lakes Lowlands.


Seneca Falls Convention

Martha's older sister Lucretia Coffin Mott was a prominent Quaker preacher. In July 1848, she visited Martha's home in Auburn, New York. [2] During that visit, Martha and Lucretia met with Elizabeth Cady Stanton at Jane Hunt's house and decided to hold a convention in nearby Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss the need for greater rights for women.

Lucretia Mott American suffragist

Lucretia Mott was a U.S. Quaker, abolitionist, women's rights activist, and social reformer. She had formed the idea of reforming the position of women in society when she was amongst the women excluded from the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840. In 1848 she was invited by Jane Hunt to a meeting that led to the first meeting about women's rights. Mott helped write the Declaration of Sentiments during the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention.

Auburn, New York City in New York, United States

Auburn is a city in Cayuga County, New York, United States, located at the north end of Owasco Lake, one of the Finger Lakes, in Central New York. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 27,687. It is the county seat of Cayuga County, and the site of the maximum-security Auburn Correctional Facility, as well as the William H. Seward House Museum and the house of abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton 19th-century American suffragist

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an American suffragist, social activist, abolitionist, and leading figure of the early women's rights movement. Her Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the Seneca Falls Convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, is often credited with initiating the first organized women's rights and women's suffrage movements in the United States. Stanton was president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association from 1890 until 1892.

The importance of the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women's rights convention, was recognized by Congress in 1980 with the creation of the Women's Rights National Historical Park at the site, administered by the National Park Service. The Park's Visitor Center today features a group of life-size bronze statues to honor the women and men who in 1848 initiated the organized movement for women's rights and woman suffrage. Her statue shows her, as she was then, visibly pregnant. In 2005, the park featured a display about the relationship between Lucretia and Martha. In 2008, the park featured a display focused on Martha.

Seneca Falls Convention First American womens rights convention

The Seneca Falls Convention was the first women's rights convention. It advertised itself as "a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman". Held in Seneca Falls, New York, it spanned two days over July 19–20, 1848. Attracting widespread attention, it was soon followed by other women's rights conventions, including the Rochester Women's Rights Convention in Rochester, New York, two weeks later. In 1850 the first in a series of annual National Women's Rights Conventions met in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Womens rights rights claimed for women and girls worldwide

Women's rights are the rights and entitlements claimed for women and girls worldwide, and formed the basis for the women's rights movement in the nineteenth century and feminist movement during the 20th century. In some countries, these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behavior, whereas in others they are ignored and suppressed. They differ from broader notions of human rights through claims of an inherent historical and traditional bias against the exercise of rights by women and girls, in favor of men and boys.

Womens Rights National Historical Park historic park and museum in New York state, USA

Women's Rights National Historical Park was established in 1980, and covers a total of 6.83 acres (27,600 m2) of land in Seneca Falls and nearby Waterloo, New York, United States.

Women's rights and abolitionism


After the Seneca Falls Convention Martha Wright participated in a number of state conventions and the annual National Women's Rights Conventions in various capacities, often serving as President. She was also active in the abolition movement. The arguments for women's rights had much in common with the arguments for abolition. With her sister Lucretia, Martha attended the founding meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia in 1833.

The National Women's Rights Convention was an annual series of meetings that increased the visibility of the early women's rights movement in the United States. First held in 1850 in Worcester, Massachusetts, the National Women's Rights Convention combined both male and female leadership, and attracted a wide base of support including temperance advocates and abolitionists. Speeches were given on the subjects of equal wages, expanded education and career opportunities, women's property rights, marriage reform and temperance. Chief among the concerns discussed at the convention was the passage of laws that would give suffrage to women.

In September 1852, Martha attended a convention in Syracuse, NY where she gave her first speech on women's rights. This very convention was where she was first introduced to Susan B. Anthony. Martha attended many conventions and lectures all the way until 1862, when the Civil War occurred. She felt it would be best to focus on the war. She still continued her fight for the American Anti-Slavery Society.

Underground Railroad

Martha's home in Auburn, New York, was part of the Underground Railroad where she harbored fugitive slaves. [2] She became a close friend and supporter of Harriet Tubman. Martha and her husband David were huge in the act to abolish slavery they shared this common interest with their close friends in Auburn, NY the Seward family. William Henry Seward at the time was the elected governor of New York State. Seward's wife Frances Seward and his sister Lazette Worden became interested in the works of the Women's Right movement, but never actively were involved.

Underground Railroad network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early to mid-19th century, and used by African-American slaves to escape to freedom

The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early to mid-1800s, and used by African-American slaves to escape into free states, Canada and Nova Scotia with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. The term is also applied to the abolitionists, both black and white, free and enslaved, who aided the fugitives. Various other routes led to Mexico or overseas. An earlier escape route running south toward Florida, then a Spanish possession, existed from the late 17th century until Florida became a United States territory in 1821. However, the network now generally known as the Underground Railroad was formed in the late 1700s, and it ran north to the free states and Canada, and reached its height between 1850 and 1860. One estimate suggests that by 1850, 100,000 slaves had escaped via the "Railroad".

Auburn, NY Home

In 1839 the Wright family moved to 192 Genesee Street Auburn, NY. The house was very large and close to the court house. This was key for her husband David's career as a lawyer. The house would be a key part in housing slaves and important figures during the women's movement. Examples of such slaves and important figures were Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. [3]

Marker recognizing Wright Martha Coffin Wright .jpg
Marker recognizing Wright

Personal life

In 1824, Martha married Captain Peter Pelham (1785-1826) of Kentucky and moved with him to a frontier fort at Tampa Bay, Florida. They had a daughter. Peter died in July 1826, leaving Martha a nineteen-year-old widow with an infant child. She moved to upstate New York to teach painting and writing at a Quaker school for girls. Martha had six children, Marianna (whom she had with her first husband), Tallman, Eliza, Ellen, William, and Francis. After the death of her husband in 1826 she met a man by the name of Julius Catlin and continued to see him. In 1828, they both expressed their wish to become engaged and married. Yet, nothing ever came of the relationship because Julius's father did not approve of Martha and he met an early death in 1828. This was not the end of Martha's love life. In 1829, she met a man by the name of David Wright, a lawyer, and they were soon married; on November 18. David Wright was a Quaker just like Martha and was born and raised in Bucks County, PA. [4]

Martha's daughter Ellen Wright (1840–1931) was an advocate of women's rights, especially women's suffrage. In 1864, she married William Lloyd Garrison, Jr. (1838–1909), a prominent advocate of Henry George's single tax movement, free trade, woman's suffrage, and of the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act. William was the son of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.


Martha Coffin Wright died on January 4, 1875. She is buried in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, NY.


Martha's granddaughter, Eleanor Garrison (1880–1974), the daughter of her daughter Ellen and her husband William, worked for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Anna Coffin Eliza and Benjamin Yarnall Family spread across Orange, NJ, Philadelphia, PA and Brooklyn, NY


On October 9, 2007, House resolution 588 entitled "Recognizing Martha Coffin Wright on the 200th anniversary of her birth and her induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame" passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. [5]

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  1. Penney, Sherry H. and Livingstone, James D. A Very Dangerous Woman: Martha Wright and Women's Rights. University of Massachusetts Press, 2004. ISBN   1-55849-446-4
  2. 1 2 Martha C Wright,, Retrieved 16 August 2016
  3. Penney, Sherry H. and Livingstone, James D. A Very Dangerous Woman: Martha Wright and Women's Rights. University of Massachusetts Press, 2004. ISBN   1-55849-446-4.Chapter 5.
  4. Penney, Sherry H. and Livingstone, James D. A Very Dangerous Woman: Martha Wright and Women's Rights. University of Massachusetts Press, 2004. ISBN   1-55849-446-4.Chapter 2.
  5. Text of H. Res. 588 [110th]: Recognizing Martha Coffin Wright on the 200th anniversary of her birth and her induction into the...