Husband’s of the Women’s Movement: James Mott, Theodore Weld, & Henry Stanton

Abstract:
Lucretia Coffin Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Angelina Grimkè Weld are well recognized for their roles in shaping the fight for gender equality and suffrage.  Their husbands offered them varying degrees of support.  James and Lucretia Mott were married in 1811.  Their marriage has been characterized as the ideal marriage within the reform movement.  James Mott both encouraged and assisted  Lucretia Coffin Mott’s activism for women’s rights.  Angelina Grimkè and Theodore Weld were two of the most influential abolitionist orators, at the height of their powers when they married in 1838.  However their marriage marked their withdrawal from public reform work.  That two such staunch activists should allow marriage and domesticity to stifle their work induced many younger feminists to consider matrimony and a career in reform work as incompatible.  Henry Brewster Stanton and Elizabeth Cady married in 1840.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s marriage introduced her to the world of activism, a world she would not have been privy to without the aid of her husband.  Yet the couple pursued separate goals with their reform work, only occasionally aiding one another.  Additionally, Cady Stanton often felt trapped by motherhood and housework, as she raised seven children.  As three of the most prominent marriages of the reform movement, they became model unions, shaping public perception of the private lives of activists.  Those within the reform movement examined the marriages with an eye to their success, carefully noting the support the men offered their wives in their chosen reform work.  The younger generation of women’s rights advocates – those with most at stake if they formed an unhappy union – used the marriages of the Motts, Stantons, and Welds to inform their own marital decisions.