July 19, 1848: Seneca Falls Convention for Women’s Rights

On this day in 1848, the first-ever United States women’s rights convention began in Seneca Falls, New York.  Organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Convention was attended by approximately 300 men and women and was considered to be the beginning of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

Explore the Women’s Movement in this interactive timeline from the Ken Burns and Paul Barnes film, “Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony”.

Photo: Library of Congress, head-and-shoulder portraits of seven important figures of the suffrage and women’s rights movement (Mott, Lucretia; Greenwood, Grace; Stanton, Elizabeth Cady; Dickinson, Anna E.; Livermore, Mary Ashton Rice; Anthony, Susan B.; Child, Lydia Maria).

1920: The 19th Amendment is official!

The ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which extended the vote to women, was officially certified on August 26, 1920. Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, giving the amendment the approval of three-fourths of the states.

The campaign for woman suffrage took about 100 years. In the 1820s and 1830s, women had roles in reform groups that began to give voice to the movement. The constitutional amendment was first introduced in 1878 and was promoted by such prominent advocates for women’s rights as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott.

There’s more about the 19th Amendment at Our Documents

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony in the US Capitol Rotunda

The Washington Post had a really interesting article about the lack of monuments to women in the US.  Nationwide less than 8 percent of the 5,193 public outdoor individual statues in the US are of women. Only nine of the 100 statues in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall represent women.   

EVE (Equal Visibility Everywhere) is working on correcting this imbalance.  Right now they are working to get a Maryland statue for Harriet Tubman and a Kansas statue for Amelia Earhart.  You can help by donating or volunteering.  If you’re a history major, this seems like a really cool project to intern on.  

Feminism & Native American history were my twin obsessions in 1996; if I had found this article then I think I might have died in ecstasy. 

What a vision of (not-quite) communal life:

It is difficult for white Americans today to picture the extended period in history when – before the United States government’s Indian-reservation system, like apartheid, concretized a separation of the races in the last half of the nineteenth century – regular trade, cultural sharing, even friendship between Native Americans and Euro-Americans was common. Perhaps nowhere was this now-lost social ease more evident than in the towns and villages in upstate New York where Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage lived, and Lucretia Mott visited. All three suffragists personally knew Iroquois women, citizens of the six-nation confederacy (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and later Tuscarora) that had established peace among themselves before Columbus came to this “old” world.

Stanton, Gage, and Mott regularly read newspaper accounts of everyday Iroquois activities – a recent condolence ceremony (to mourn a chief’s death and to set in place a new one); the latest sports scores (a lacrosse match between the Mohawk and the Onondaga); a Quaker council called to ask Seneca women to leave their fields and work in the home (as the Friends said God commanded but as Mott opposed). Stanton, Gage, and Mott could also read that according to interviews with white teachers at various Indian nations, Indian men did not rape women. Front page stories admonished big-city dandies to learn a thing or two from Indian men’s example, so that white women too could walk around any time of the day or night without fear.

Seneca Falls

This weekend marked the 166th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention. The convention is considered the starting point of America’s suffrage movement. Led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, the convention discussed women’s status in American society.

The two day lecture series produced the “Declaration of Sentiments”:

  • He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.
  • He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.
  • He has withheld her from rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men - both natives and foreigners.
  • Having deprived her of this first right as a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides.
  • He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
  • He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.
  • He has made her morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master - the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement
  • He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes of divorce, in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given; as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of the women - the law, in all cases, going upon a false supposition of the supremacy of a man, and giving all power into his hands.
  • After depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it.
  • He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration.
  • He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction, which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.
  • He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education - all colleges being closed against her.
  • He allows her in church, as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.
  • He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated but deemed of little account in man.
  • He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God.
  • He 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.

Although the Declaration was praised for its courage, the principles themselves were not widely accepted. Nevertheless, the Seneca Falls Convention and the Declaration of Sentiments helped launch one of the greatest social movements in American history. 

 Check out this link for more info…:

If you don’t already, I highly recommend following the National Women’s History Museumon Facebook. Day after day, they share incredible stories of women who achieved amazing feats. 

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.
—  The opening paragraph of the Declaration of Sentiments from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848