July 19th 1848: Seneca Falls convenes
On this day in 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention on women’s rights convened in New York state. A pivotal moment in the history of first wave feminism, the event was organised by feminist campaigners Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Mott and Stanton, both abolitionists, were inspired to hold the convention when their gender barred them from speaking at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. The 1848 convention was attended by over two hundred women. On the first day, Stanton read the ‘Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances’ to the attendees, a document which closely followed the 1776 Declaration of Independence, placing women’s rights at the centre of notions of American freedom and equality. As the original declaration listed American grievances with the British throne, so did Stanton’s detail men’s crimes against women, which included denial of the ‘inalienable right’ to vote, unfair marriage laws, and unequal education and work opportunities. On the convention’s second day, men were invited to attend and address the crowd, the most prominent of whom was black abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Indeed, Douglass eloquently argued for the inclusion of female suffrage in the convention’s resolutions, a measure which was backed by Stanton but opposed by Mott. Seneca Falls galvanised the incipient women’s rights movement, and was followed by annual women’s rights conventions. Female suffrage was finally granted in 1920, with Charlotte Woodward Pierce being the only signer of the Declaration of Sentiments living to see this achievement.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal”
- Declaration of Sentiments