Elizabeth Cady Stanton
In 1848, Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (181-1902) organized the first women's rights convention in history at Seneca Falls, New York. Participants drew up a declaration of sentiments that opened with the phrase "All men and women are created equal." Modelled after the Declaration of Independence, the document proclaimed that "the history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her." After listing a long string of inequities--including the double standard of sexual morality and the denial of the right to vote, to enter the professions, and to obtain a college education--it held that man "has endeavored in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life."
Among the resolutions adopted by the convention, only one was not ratified unanimously--that women be granted the right to vote. Of the 66 women and 34 men who signed the declaration of sentiments (including the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1817-1895), only two lived to see the ratification of the women's suffrage amendment to the Constitution 72 years later.
Stanton, who had married the abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton in 1840 in a ceremony without the word "obey," insisted that the Declaration of Sentiments include a demand for woman suffrage. Portions of her address to the women's rights convention follow.
We are assembled to protest against a form of government, existing without the consent of the governed--to declare our right to befree as man is free, to be represented in the government which we are taxed to support, to have such disgraceful laws as give man the power to chastise and imprison his wife, to take the wages which she earns, the property which she inherits, and in case of separation, the children of her love; laws which make her the mere dependent on his bounty....
And, strange as it may seem to many, we now demand our right to vote according to the declaration of the government under which we live... To have drunkards, idiots, horse-racing, rumselling rowdies, ignorant foreigners, and silly boys fully recognized,w hle we ourselves are thrust out from all the rights that belong to citizens, it is too grossly insulting to the dignity fo woman to be longer quietly submitted to....
One common objection to this movement is, that if the
principles of freedom and equality which we advocate were put into practice, it would destroy all harmony in the domestic circle. Here let me ask, how many truly harmonious households have we now?... The only happy households we see now are those in which husband and wife share eqully in counsel and goverment." There can be no true dignity or independence where there is subordination tot he absolute will of another, no happiness without freedom.
Address Delivered at Seneca Falls and Rochester, New York (New York: Robert J. Johnson Printers, 1870)