Martha Coffin (Pelham) Wright (25 December 1806 – 4 January 1875), President of the National Woman Suffrage Association was, like many of her peers, a vocal proponent of improved health care and human rights. Wright personally used homeopathy, and she is believed to have attended homeopathic conventions.
Wright was the sister of minister and social reformer Lucretia Coffin Mott, and was cousin to Universalist minister Reverend Phebe Ann Coffin Hanaford, who was married to homeopath Joseph Hubbard Hanaford (1818 – 1900).
Martha Coffin Pelham Wright’s extended family contained many notable and influential people, including her brother-in-law William Pelham, the Surveyor General of New Mexico, her grandson Thomas Mott Osbourne, who was warden at New York’s Sing Sing prison, another brother-in-law, “the gallant” John Pelham, Senator William Morris Davis, who was half-brother to Lucretia’s son-in-law, abolitionist Edward Morris Davis, Congressman and geomorphologist William Morris Davis, abolitionist Abby Hopper Gibbons, and ancestors including the Governor of Martha’s Vineyard Thomas Mayhew, General John Coffin, and Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin.
Because of her progressive, free-thinking views, Martha Coffin Pelham Wright was described by her Auburn neighbours as “a very dangerous woman.”
Martha Coffin was born in Boston on Christmas Day, 1806. She was the youngest of eight children born to merchant and former Nantucket ship captain, Thomas Coffin (d. 1815), and his wife Anna Folger Coffin (1771 – 1844).
The Coffin family moved to Philadelphia when she was two where she was educated at Quaker schools.
Leader of the New York women’s rights and suffrage movements from the beginning (she was one of the planners of the Seneca Falls convention), with the support of her husband, Wright continued to be active in the women’s rights movement throughout her life.
President of numerous local, state, and national women’s rights associations and conventions, she was also a good friend of and constant consultant to Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, becoming a founding member of both the Equal Rights Association in 1866 and the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869.
Martha Coffin Wright was one of five visionary women who organized the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848, forever changing the course of American history.
She was also one of the few women who attended the 1833 founding meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society. An accomplished author, she wrote for local and national publications on anti-slavery and women’s rights issues.
She was elected President of the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1874, serving until her death in 1875.
Martha Coffin Pelham Wright’s second husband, David, was also an advocate of homeopathy, and they both wanted to send their daughter Eliza (1830 – 1911) to train as a homeopath.
Martha’s husband, David, was a lawyer who had worked in 1846 as a partner with William Henry Seward on one of his most famous cases, defending William Freeman, an African American accused of murder, on a plea of insanity.
Martha Wright, Lazette Worden, and Frances Seward were close friends….Beginning in 1827, Martha Coffin Wright, raised a Quaker, taught at the Aurora school attended earlier by Frances Seward and Lazette Worden….While they were in Auburn, they formed a mutually supportive friendship that strengthened their radical abolitionist and woman’s rights views. It may have been this group, connected to Philadelphia abolitionists through Martha Coffin Wright’s sister, Lucretia Mott, that encouraged Harriet Tubman to come to Auburn in the late 1850s. Certainly, all three of them used their homes as safe houses on the Underground Railroad.
Martha Coffin Pelham Wright died from pneumonia on 4th January 1875. She was buried at Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, Cayuga County, New York.
October 9, 2007 Washington, DC — Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution sponsored by Rep. Michael A. Arcuri (D-Utica) honoring women’s suffragist Martha Coffin Wright on the 200th anniversary of her birth and induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.