On July 9, 1848, five key members of the American women’s suffrage movement met for tea in Waterloo, New York. The participants in the tea party were Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, Mary Ann McClintock, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and hostess Jane Hunt. The setting was the Hunts’ house, modest yet comfortable, with a red velvet sofa, a map of the United States on the wall, six parlor chairs drawn around the tea table and Jane’s best teapot, cups and saucers.
Lucretia and Elizabeth had, in London several years previously, vowed to hold a convention about injustices suffered by women, and so while this tea party probably started as a calm affair, it quickly became the launch pad for nothing less than the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights conference in the Western world.
Just over half a century later, tea again linked itself to the women’s right to vote movement. One of the legendary hostesses of Newport society was Alva Vanderbilt Belmont; she and first husband William Vanderbilt set the standard for grand homes on fashionable Bellevue Avenue when they opened Marble House in 1892 at a cost of $11 million. The couple divorced in 1896, and Mrs. Belmont kept the mansion.