Martha Coffin Wright

Last updated
Martha Coffin Wright
BornDecember 25, 1806 (1806-12-25)
Died1875 (1876) (aged 68)
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.


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]


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.

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.

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.

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 influential in the movement to abolish slavery, and 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.

Auburn, NY Home

In 1839 the Wright family moved to 192 Genesee Street Auburn, NY. The house was very large and close to the courthouse. 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]

Related Research Articles

Susan B. Anthony 19th and 20th-century American womens rights activist

Susan B. Anthony was an American social reformer and women's rights activist who played a pivotal role in the women's suffrage movement. Born into a Quaker family committed to social equality, she collected anti-slavery petitions at the age of 17. In 1856, she became the New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society.

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.

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.

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 the Wesleyan Chapel of the town of 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.

Lucy Stone American abolitionist and suffragist (1818-1893)

Lucy Stone was a prominent U.S. orator, abolitionist, and suffragist, and a vocal advocate and organizer promoting rights for women. In 1847, Stone became the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree. She spoke out for women's rights and against slavery at a time when women were discouraged and prevented from public speaking. Stone was known for using her birth name after marriage, the custom being for women to take their husband's surname.

Angelina Grimké American abolitionist and feminist

Angelina Emily Grimké Weld was an American abolitionist, political activist, women's rights advocate, and supporter of the women's suffrage movement. She and her sister Sarah Moore Grimké are the only white Southern women who became abolitionists. The sisters lived together as adults, while Angelina was the wife of abolitionist leader Theodore Dwight Weld.

Sarah Moore Grimké American abolitionist

Sarah Moore Grimké was an American abolitionist, widely held to be the mother of the women's suffrage movement. Born and reared in South Carolina to a prominent, wealthy planter family, she moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the 1820s and became a Quaker, as did her younger sister Angelina. The sisters began to speak on the abolitionist lecture circuit, joining a tradition of women who had been speaking in public on political issues since colonial days, including Susanna Wright, Hannah Griffitts, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Anna Dickinson. They recounted their knowledge of slavery firsthand, urged abolition, and also became activists for women's rights.

Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis American activist

Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis was an American abolitionist, suffragist, and educator. She was one of the founders of the New England Woman Suffrage Association.

Womens suffrage in the United States Womens voting rights in the USA

Women's suffrage in the United States of America, the legal right of women to vote, was established over the course of more than half a century, first in various states and localities, sometimes on a limited basis, and then nationally in 1920.

Helen Storrow Girl Scouting leader

Helen Osborne Storrow was a prominent American philanthropist, early Girl Scout leader, and chair of the World Committee of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) for eight years. She founded the First National Girl Scout Leaders' Training in Long Pond, Massachusetts; headed the leaders' training camp at Foxlease, UK; and donated the first of the WAGGGS World centres, Our Chalet.

Anne Knight British suffragist

Anne Knight was an English social reformer, abolitionist and pioneer of feminism. She attended the 1840 Anti-Slavery convention, where the need to improve women's rights became obvious. In 1847 Knight produced what is thought to be the first leaflet for women's suffrage and formed the first UK women's suffrage organisation in Sheffield in 1851.

The first Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women was held on May 9, 1838. One hundred and seventy-five women, from ten different states and representing twenty female antislavery groups, gathered in New York City to discuss their role in the American abolition movement. This gathering represented the first time that women from such a broad geographic area met with the common purpose of promoting the anti-slavery cause among women. Mary S. Parker was the President of the gathering. Other prominent women went on to be vocal members of the Women's Suffrage Movement, including Lucretia Mott, the Grimké sisters, and Lydia Maria Child. The attendees included women of color, the wives and daughters of slaveholders, and women of low economic status.

Elizabeth Pease Nichol British activist

Elizabeth Pease Nichol was a 19th-century British abolitionist, anti-segregationist, woman suffragist, chartist and anti-vivisectionist. She was active in the Peace Society, the Temperance movement and founded the Darlington Ladies Anti-Slavery Society. In 1853 she married Dr. John Pringle Nichol (1804–1859), Regius Professor of Astronomy at the University of Glasgow. She was one of about six women who were in the painting of the World Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840.

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 female and male 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 women the right to vote.

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.

Harriet Forten Purvis American abolitionist

Harriet Forten Purvis was an African-American abolitionist and first generation suffragist. With her mother and sisters, she formed the first biracial women's abolitionist group, the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. She hosted anti-slavery events at her home and with her husband Robert Purvis ran an Underground Railroad station. Robert and Harriet also founded the Gilbert Lyceum. She fought against segregation and for the right for blacks to vote after the Civil War.

Jane Hunt American Quaker

Jane Clothier Hunt or Jane Clothier Master was an American Quaker who hosted the Seneca Falls meeting of Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Rochester Womens Rights Convention of 1848

The Rochester Women's Rights Convention of 1848 met on August 2, 1848 in Rochester, New York. Many of its organizers had participated in the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women's rights convention, two weeks earlier in Seneca Falls, a smaller town not far away. The Rochester convention elected a woman, Abigail Bush, as its presiding officer, making it the first public meeting composed of both men and women in the U.S. to do so. This controversial step was opposed even by some of the meeting's leading participants. The convention approved the Declaration of Sentiments that had first been introduced at the Seneca Falls Convention, including the controversial call for women's right to vote. It also discussed the rights of working women and took steps that led to the formation of a local organization to support those rights.

The Ohio Women's Convention at Salem in 1850 met on April 19–20, 1850 in Salem, Ohio, a center for reform activity. It was the third in a series of women's rights conventions that began with the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. It was the first of these conventions to be organized on a statewide basis. About five hundred people attended. All of the convention's officers were women. Men were not allowed to vote, sit on the platform or speak during the convention. The convention sent a memorial to the convention that was preparing a new Ohio state constitution, asking it to provide for women's right to vote.

Mary Ann MClintock Suffragist, Abolitionist

Mary Ann M'Clintock or Mary Ann McClintock (1800-1884) is best known for her role in the formation of the women's suffrage movement, as well as abolitionism.


  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 National Women’s Hall of Fame, accessed 28 February 2020