The M’Clintocks: Preserving A Legacy of Quaker Social Activism

I have been at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park for a  couple of weeks now, getting to know the staff, the rangers, and the history and importance of this site. In addition to owning the Wesleyan Chapel next door and the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House in town, the Park also owns several other properties, such as the Hunt House, the Chamberlain Property, and the M’Clintock House in Waterloo, NY. My main project for this summer is focusing on creating diverse programming, for children and adults at the M’Clintock House.


The M’Clintock House in Waterloo, NY. It was owned by Richard and Jane Hunt and its first tenants were Thomas and Mary Ann M’Clintock and their five children. Photo taken by NPS.

The M’Clintock House is currently one of the Park’s least visited historic structures, mainly because before there wasn’t enough staff available to conduct tours at the house. I also suspect that its location away from Seneca Falls, NY leads to the unawareness of the importance of this site and its tenants. Nevertheless, the M’Clintock House has an important and relevant history and I hope to see more our visitors make their way over in due time. A little bit about the house’s first tenants; Mary Ann (1800-1884) and Thomas M’Clintock (1792-1876) were married in 1820. During the first 17 years of their marriage, they lived in Philadelphia, where they were active in the Society of Friends community aka The Quakers. They also helped form the Philadelphia Free Produce Society, where members refrain from buying or selling goods made by slave labor. Sometime in the 1830s, the M’Clintocks separated themselves from the larger Orthodox Quaker community to follow the teachings of Elias Hicks, who formed the Hicksite Quakers. Hicksite Quakers of were different from the Society of Friends in Philadelphia in that: One, they believed that anyone can be a “Minister,” meaning that if someone felt moved to talk, regardless of gender, during a meeting, they had the power to do so (Lucretia Mott voiced her opinions and feelings during many a Hicksite Quaker meeting). Two, they also believed that everyone is equal and refused to segregated women or people of color in church or town meetings. Three, and most importantly, Hicksite Quakers believed that an individual’s faith required social activism. Many Hicksite Quakers were involved in the Temperance movement, School Reform, the Anti-Abolition movement, and the Women’s Rights Movement. The M’Clintocks followed other Hicksite Quakers, such as their in-laws, Jane and Richard Hunt, to Waterloo, NY, in 1836. By this time, the Erie Canal was more than a decade old and provided many families, including the Hunts and the M’Clintocks, with more economic opportunities and growth. Thomas M’Clintock became the town’s druggist and owned what we would now call a pharmacy. Mary Ann, in addition to housekeeping and child-rearing, taught school in one of the buildings, behind their home that was owned by the Hunts. Thomas M’Clintock  became one of the leaders of the Hicksite Community in New York and eventually formed the Friends of Human Progress. The M’Clintocks are some of my favorite people to talk and research about. They have done so much for the cause of Women’s Rights and for the Anti-Slavery Movement. Their house was not only the site where the Declaration of Sentiments was drafted but is also considered to be an Underground Railroad site, due to the actions and beliefs of the M’Clintocks who were against Slavery. The M’Clintocks were members of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society, which they also wrote the constitution in 1842 and allegedly raised funds for those in the Underground Railroad. Currently, their connection to the Underground Railroad is not well known, I hope that with the programs that I’m producing will make that connection more clear to the visitor.  

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