Tag Archives: Lucretia Mott

Episode 2 of “Suffrage Storytelling”: How Bess got in even more trouble!

Season 1 of “Suffrage Storytelling” reveals the lives of young women in 1903 from on Vimeo.

Whenever Edna Buckman could, she took the train to center city Philadelphia to meet her best friend Bess at the Market Street teahouse. Bess, the rebel, loved telling Edna stories after they took their seats and ordered from the menu. Edna especially liked hearing Bess talk about George Sand, the French woman novelist who wore men’s clothes and adored attention from her many lovers, both women and men.

When Bess strolled down Market Street, she showed Edna how she imagined George Sand walked with a cocky swagger. Bess insisted that Sand made fun of men on their high horses, right to their faces. Edna believed Sand felt entitled to do whatever she pleased because she traveled in aristocratic creative circles and could get away with being different.

“People like us can’t turn into George Sand. It will only come back to haunt us,” Edna said. “Who cares anyway?” Bess asked, throwing up her hands and glancing around at the other teahouse patrons who couldn’t hear or understand their conversation. Bess could be blunt when explaining her problems to her best friend.


Mrs. Weiss had been horrified after daughter Bess delivered a tirade about women’s second-class roles at home at the Sunday dinner table in front of all the relatives. This is why Mrs. Weiss supported Philip in his plan to take Bess out of the pool of young single women by marrying her. Philip, an old friend of the Weiss family, had been like a distant cousin to Bess. She’d grown up seeing him at the homes of family and friends on special occasions. Of all the eligible young men in Germantown, Philip couldn’t be considered the best prospect for marriage, but he wasn’t the worst either.

“Philip’s nice, but I’d rather train to be a teacher than get married,” Bess said.

“Maybe there’s a special arrangement for a man and woman to agree on. Family, yes. And freedom too,” Edna suggested.

“Philip’s too much of a traditional man,” Bess responded as the two women ordered another round of oolong tea.


The day of their meeting at the Market Street teahouse, concern about Bess and her parents took up most of the conversation. Not long before, Bess got in trouble after her mother found Mary Wollstonecraft’s controversial 1798 book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman under the bedroom mattress. Bess had borrowed the work from the city library and read it twice. Then she wrapped it in paper, tied it with string, and passed it around among her classmates at school. This was bad enough when her father found out. But when Bess didn’t show any interest in marrying Philip, her parents lowered the boom and confined Bess to her room after school and weekends for a month.

Mr. Weiss wasn’t supportive of his daughter’s plan to become a teacher. He believed higher education beyond high school would be wasted on a young woman. Mr. Weiss emphasized that he wouldn’t pay a cent for his daughter’s advanced education. He was furious that the school Bess attended with Edna, Friends Central in Philadelphia, had exposed Bess to unconventional ideas. In his opinion, women were created by God to be subordinate to men, and the Bible said so. Quakers like Edna’s family believed that boys and girls, men and women, were equal under the eyes of heaven, something Mr. Weiss didn’t know when he caved into pressure from his daughter that she get a high school education.


The Weiss family weren’t Quakers, but they lived in a Germantown neighborhood in Philadelphia with Quakers like the Buckman family, people they liked. When Bess decided she wanted to attend a Quaker secondary school with Edna, the idea didn’t seem so out of the ordinary to her father. Mrs. Weiss believed some education made young women better wives. Overall, Mrs. Weiss agreed with her husband’s position and lectured Bess about how men functioned best in their “sphere” of the larger world. Women’s special qualities of purity and morality qualified them for their own realm of responsibility back at home with the family, Mrs. Weiss added.

If Bess became argumentative, her father made his position clear: “Women should stay in their place.” Her mother called politics a “dirty business” because she believed women could be contaminated by too many thoughts about voting. Correcting the stain created by men in society could be addressed by women without a change in the law to extend voting rights. Mrs. Weiss called this “municipal housekeeping,” or community reform work, the highest form of work suitable for women’s attention.


“Marriage is a bad deal for women,” Bess emphasized in her teahouse talk with Edna as they finished the last crumbs of the scones on their plates. “I’m holding out to meet the special man who will love and support me,” Edna responded.

Bess didn’t comment. Being an outsider who questioned the world as it was couldn’t have been easy for Bess when even her best friend Edna didn’t embrace all her ideas. Several school chums of Bess and Edna agreed with society’s prevailing view that politics were corrupt and women had enough to do caring for family affairs without adding more to their responsibilities.

With each passing year, however, ideas about women’s roles were changing as more Friends’ Central women graduates enrolled in the few colleges and universities open to them. Some of these young women believed that since patriarchy constituted the devil they knew, women voting could turn out to be they devil they didn’t know. If Bess and Edna examined these issues in their own lives, they weren’t alone in struggling with a fundamental issue facing their generation: To what extent would they put themselves on the line to be free? Bess represented a hard liner. Edna hoped to find a middle way.


Bess identified with radically-minded women such as suffrage activist Susan B. Anthony who didn’t mind being called a “war horse,” “battleaxe,” and “unsexed.” Anthony believed that women’s freedom was more important than worrying about being called nasty names. Words like war horse and unsexed were used often by men like Mr. Weiss to label women who supported social equality and freedom. Bess described herself as a restless “New Woman,” a category of individuals who had no intention of finding self fulfillment within the limitations of “true womanhood” and marriage.

Only Lucretia Mott’s husband, James Mott, represented one of the few examples Edna found of an ideal Quaker man who could be himself and yet uphold his partner’s dignity and right to a full expression of power in the affairs of the material world. In Edna’s mind, the Motts had demonstrated the potential of equal partnership at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 when both participated fully in the landmark women’s rights convention. In 1903, Edna hadn’t met Wilmer Kearns yet. After she did, the couple met at the Market Street teahouse as they got to know each other better. Teahouses represented a refuge, not only for Edna, Bess and Wilmer, but for many young people of their generation.

STORY RESOURCES: GET OUT THE WIKIPEDIA:  George Sand. Germantown. Lucretia Mott. Friends’ Central. Quaker. Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. Mary Wollstonecraft. Susan B. Anthony. James Mott.

Suffrage Wagon CafeFollow Suffrage Wagon News Channel on Facebook and Twitter. Quarterly newsletters just by signing up. Suffrage Wagon News Channel has a video platform on Vimeo

Follow SuffrageCentennials.com for news and views about upcoming suffrage centennials. “Choose it and Use it” is a video reminding us of how the past is linked to what we do today and its impact on the future.

Get ready for upcoming events, plus Suffrage Wagon news review

Grandmother's Choice quilt projectJoin an international movement that builds on women’s civil rights movements of the past. One Billion Rising for Justice is on February 14th in 2014. I’ll be participating. Check out what’s happening in your community and join in!

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: February 15th is Susan B. Anthony’s birthday. A special article is planned. The month of March is Women’s History Month, so participate in events near where you live. Also join in by hosting friends and family for a tea party featuring goodies from your kitchen. March 8th is International Women’s Day. March 29th is the Seventh International SWAN Day or “Support Women Artists Now” Day. There have been over 1,000 SWAN Day events in 23 countries in the first few years of this holiday.

Sad to see the end of the online suffrage quilt project. See photo above. Over the past year I’ve been following the Grandmother’s Choice quilt blog project that has inspired and involved all sorts of people with Votes for Women history and quilts inspired by this fabulous time in our history. The projects have been varied and fascinating. The above illustration called “Gerry’s Suffrage Crazy Quilt” is one example. It demonstrates a terrific way to combine art, history, civil rights, and fun. Quilting is an extraordinary networking opportunity. #1. #2. 

Montana is moving full speed ahead with its suffrage centennial in 2014. It has a Facebook page, and the launch of media coverage. The Montana Historical Society points out that women didn’t serve on state juries until 1939, and the state celebration doesn’t include just “accomplished” women. A video gives an overview. For other suffrage centennial news from all over, follow suffragecentennials.com.

And now a Suffrage Wagon review of January. It was “Hot Tea Month” and we celebrated our past that’s tied to the present and future. January 3rd was Lucretia Mott’s birthday. She was featured on the New England Historical Society’s blog and there’s a new book out on Lucretia Mott by Carol Faulkner that I plan to read (another promise). For more information. Suffrage Wagon honored Joan of Arc’s birthday on January 6th with a special article from Kathleen Kelly about Joan and how the theme played out in the suffrage movement. Carrie Chapman Catt’s birthday in January didn’t go by on Suffrage Wagon without comment from one of her fans, Nate Levin, who shared a visit to Catt’s childhood home.

Follow the Suffrage Wagon. Postings twice a week. Facebook and Twitter. Vimeo and YouTube channels. Celebrate women’s freedom to vote.

Suffrage Movement Was Fueled by Hot Tea: Part I


by Kenneth Florey

That there was more than a casual connection between tea and suffrage activism is undeniable. Suffragists organized tea parties to promote their cause and to raise money, as evidenced by many of the state reports that appear in Volume VI of The History of Woman Suffrage, a work that was originally conceived by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Further references to suffrage tea parties are scattered throughout the pages of the Woman’s Journal, where they are sometimes held up as models to advance “votes for women.” The Woman’s Journal, the most popular and longest lasting of all suffrage publications in America, was for a time the official organ of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the main periodic source for all things suffrage related.


But there was also a manufacturing component involved, and “suffrage tea,” along with its ancillary products, was sold to the general public and proved to be a successful fundraiser. During the California campaign of 1911, for example, the Oakland Amendment League had a suffrage booth at the Cherry Festival at San Leandro where they dispensed, among other items, “Equality Tea.” This tea was a special brand for the campaign manufactured for the Woman Suffrage Party that was also sold by other organizations to raise money at their events.

The Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association advertised their own “Suffrage Tea in a Special Box” for fifty cents. In England, the Women’s Social and Political Union began selling in 1910 “Votes for Women Tea” in half pound and one pound packets. When WWI began, the English movement, which produced a greater variety of suffrage memorabilia than did its counterpart in America, placed a semi-halt on the sale of artifacts, perhaps considering novelty items to be inappropriate during darker times.

Suffrage tea was an exception and continued to be offered through suffrage periodicals. It is unfortunate that given its ephemeral nature, no tea, or even its attendant packaging, appears to have survived from the period, although one hopes that some examples may as yet emerge.


There are a number of suffrage tea cups and tea sets known, but most of them are English. The National American Woman Suffrage Association did offer for sale in its 1915 catalog a demitasse cup and saucer for fifty cents each that were embellished with the words “Votes for Women” on a small, elegant gold rim. The setting was made for them by Hutschenreuther Selb Bavaria and imported by the Art China New York Import Company. Alva Belmont, Newport socialite and founder of the Political Equality Association, sold a small creamer for twenty-five cents that was inscribed “Votes for Women” in cobalt blue at the suffrage shop that was connected to both her headquarters and the Association’s lunchroom in New York City.

The Women’s Political and Social Union sold the most famous of the English sets at their huge bazaar at the Prince’s Skating Rink in Knightsbridge, London, held from May 13 to 26, 1909. Manufactured by the firm of Williamsons of Longton, Staffordshire, various distinct pieces included teacups and saucers, small cake plates, a teapot with lid, a small milk jug, and a sugar basin or bowl.

In 1911, the WSPU remade the set in a slightly larger size, expanded the number of items in it from 13 to 22, and sold it for ten shillings, six pence to the general public. All pieces featured an imprint with a design by Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of WSPU founder Emmeline Pankhurst, of an angel facing left, blowing a curved horn. In the background are prison bars and the initials of the WSPU. Above the angel is a banner upon which the word “Freedom” is inscribed.

COMING SOON: The second part of the special feature by Ken Florey about suffrage movement tea memorabilia. The author’s web site. Photos above are from the author’s suffrage memorabilia collection.

It’s Lucretia Mott’s birthday today, January 3rd. Have a cup of tea in her honor and invite your friends to join you. Monday, January 6th is Joan of Arc’s birthday. Joan was an icon for both the American and English suffrage movements.

Lucretia Mott birthday January 3

Follow Suffrage Wagon News Channel during January, Hot Tea Month.

Tea parties and receptions were one of the few socially-acceptable ways for a woman to get out of the house, both in the US and UK. They used tea gatherings for fundraising and for organizing. While digital organizing is great for many aspects of community organizing today, there’s nothing like face-to-face collaboration! Plan a tea gathering for your action group. Follow the wagon during January. Suffrage video film festival scheduled throughout the month!