A Very Dangerous Woman: Martha Wright and Women's Rights

A Very Dangerous Woman: Martha Wright and Women's Rights

by Sharon H. Penney, James D. Livingston
     
 

"A very dangerous woman" is what Martha Coffin Wright's conservative neighbors considered her, because of her work in the women's rights and abolition movements. In 1848, Wright and her older sister Lucretia Mott were among the five brave women who organized the historic Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention. Wright remained a prominent figure in the women's

Overview

"A very dangerous woman" is what Martha Coffin Wright's conservative neighbors considered her, because of her work in the women's rights and abolition movements. In 1848, Wright and her older sister Lucretia Mott were among the five brave women who organized the historic Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention. Wright remained a prominent figure in the women's movement until her death in 1875 at age sixty-eight, when she was president of the National Woman Suffrage Association. At age twenty-six, she attended the 1833 founding of the American Anti-Slavery Society and later presided over numerous antislavery meetings, including two in 1861 that were disrupted by angry antiabolitionist mobs. Active in the Underground Railroad, she sheltered fugitive slaves and was a close friend and supporter of Harriet Tubman.

In telling Wright's story, the authors make good use of her lively letters to her family, friends, and colleagues, including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. These letters reveal Wright's engaging wit and offer an insider's view of nineteenth-century reform and family life. Her correspondence with slaveholding relatives in the South grew increasingly contentious with the approach of the Civil War. One nephew became a hero of the Confederacy with his exploits at the Battle of Fredericksburg, and her son in the Union artillery was seriously wounded at Gettysburg while repelling Pickett's Charge.

Wright's life never lacked for drama. She survived a shipwreck, spent time at a frontier fort, experienced the trauma of the deaths of a fiancé, her first husband, and three of her seven children, and navigated intense conflicts within the women's rights and abolition movements. Throughout her tumultuous career, she drew on a reservoir of humor to promote her ideas and overcome the many challenges she faced. This accessible biography, written with the general reader in mind, does justice to her remarkable life.

University of Massachusetts Press

Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe - Ellen Goodman

Is it possible that we are still discovering our Founding Mothers? Now it's Martha Wright's turn to be unearthed from history to her-story. This book shows her passion, joy and humor. If she was 'a very dangerous woman,' we could use a lot more of them.

The Book Connection

I highly recommend A Very Dangerous Woman to anyone interested in the women's rights movement, influential early American women, how the Civil War affected the women's rights movement, and those wishing to learn more about Martha Wright.

H-Net Reviews

Penny and Livingston revise--and revitalize--the story of the beginnings of the woman's rights movement; they deserve the attention of all historians of politics and culture in what was once called 'the middle period.

H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online
Their meticulous research provides a long-overdue biography of this 'founding mother,' revealing how, in her life, politics, religion, and social change came together to empower this birthright Quaker woman, living in the rapidly transforming region of upstate New York, to nurture and maintain her strong family networks while engaging abolitionism and women's rights.

Library Journal
Martha Wright was, with her more famous sister, Lucretia Mott, among the five women who organized the first Woman's Rights Convention in 1848 at Seneca Falls, NY. Wright remained active in the movement for the remainder of her life, balancing her reform work and family (which included seven children) with astonishing grace and humor. She enjoyed close friendships with many notable reformers, presided over numerous conventions, and eventually served as president of the National Woman's Suffrage Association. An ardent abolitionist, she also welcomed African American activists Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass into her Auburn, NY, home, which was a station on the Underground Railroad. In this first book-length study of her remarkable life, Wright's strong but unpretentious personality jumps from the page in excerpts from her many letters. Her honesty and wit add zest to the now familiar stories of the antislavery and woman's rights movements, all of which is captured admirably by Penney (Univ. of Massachusetts, Boston) and Livingston (M.I.T.), a direct descendant of Wright. This very readable scholarly biography is appropriate for public and academic libraries.-Linda V. Carlisle, Southern Illinois Univ., Edwardsville Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558494473
Publisher:
University of Massachusetts Press
Publication date:
07/21/2004
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.16(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.85(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Christopher Densmore

Beyond those specifically interested in reform, this book will attract a wider audience interested in biography and women's lives. The 'plot' of Martha Coffin Wright's life is inherently dramatic and well captured by this book.

Judith Wellman

This is a highly readable, very well researched book about an important woman whose life raises major questions about freedom, rights, religion, family, race, and women's roles generally. Wright is so wonderfully witty and so quotable.... Who would not love to read this book?

Meet the Author

Sherry H. Penney is former chancellor and currently holder of the Sherry H. Penney Professorship of Leadership in the College of Management at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her husband, James D. Livingston, a direct descendant of Martha Wright, teaches materials science at MIT and also writes on American history.

University of Massachusetts Press

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