Stanton, Elizabeth Cady
BORN: November 12, 1815 • Johnstown, New York
DIED: October 26, 1902 • New York, New York
Women's rights activist
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the most prominent women's rights activists of the nineteenth century. Suffrage (the right to vote) was the cause most dear to Stanton's heart. She dedicated her life to ensuring that women's voices were heard. In 1851, she met another tireless activist, Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), and together the women spearheaded the suffrage movement. Although neither would live to see women get the vote, their dedication and courage were the basis for the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, in 1920.
"The voice of woman has been silenced in the state, the church, and the home, but man cannot fulfill his destiny alone, he cannot redeem his race unaided."
Father wanted a boy
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born to Margaret and Daniel Cady, well-known residents of Johnstown, New York, on November 12, 1815. Daniel was a lawyer and a judge. Stanton's parents never hid their preference for their two sons over their four daughters. According to the National Women's Hall of Fame Web site, when Stanton's brother died, her father cried to her, "Oh my daughter, I wish you were a boy!"
Not wanting to disappoint her father, Stanton did everything in her power to make herself her brother's equal in her father's eye. She obtained a quality education and excelled in Latin, Greek, and mathematics. She learned to debate and ride horses. She took a genuine interest in learning law from her father. Stanton would be considered well educated in any era of American society, but she was especially well educated for a woman in the early nineteenth century. Most women of the time did not receive formal schooling of any kind.
Marries and becomes active in politics
Stanton's early activism in two other social movements, abolition (the antislavery movement) and temperance (a movement encouraging moderation in drinking alcohol or not drinking at all) brought her into contact with other like-minded people. She married abolitionist Henry B. Stanton (1805–1887) in 1840. Already an individual thinker at the age of twenty-five, Elizabeth had the word "obey" removed from the couple's wedding vows. The Stantons would have five sons and two daughters between 1842 and 1859.
The Stantons honeymooned at the World's Anti-Slavery Convention, which was held in London in 1840. When it became clear to Stanton that male delegates were considered more important than female delegates (only men were allowed to speak; women were not given seating, but had to stand), she decided then and there that women should hold a convention for their own rights. The idea stayed with her, even though her busy schedule prohibited her from acting on it right away. A chance meeting at the convention with Lucretia Mott (1793–1880), another key figure in the suffrage movement, laid the groundwork for an event that would not happen for another eight years.
The Stantons spent the early years of their marriage in Boston, but in 1847, they moved to Seneca Falls, New York. This move marked a turning point in Stanton's life. In Boston, she had been surrounded by domestic servants who took care of the daily chores and tasks such as laundry, cooking, and caring for the children. Stanton had no idea what life without servants was like. In Seneca Falls, however, she had no live-in help. With three young children and a large house to care for, she experienced what life was like for the average woman. According to the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House Web site, Stanton wrote, "I now fully understood the practical difficulties most women had to contend with."
Living in Seneca Falls with a more normal lifestyle left Stanton isolated from other enlightened, reform-minded people. Her activism was confined largely to writing, and she published articles in newspapers and magazines. In July 1848, Stanton met with Mott and three of her friends in a nearby town called Waterloo. The women decided the time was right to hold the first women's rights convention. According to The Seneca Falls Convention Web site of the Smithsonian Institution, they would discuss "the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman."
The Seneca Falls Convention
Stanton, the obvious writer in the group, developed the Declaration of Sentiments, which outlined the purpose of the convention. In the Declaration, she put forth the idea that men and women were equal. She also listed eighteen ways in which men did not treat women as their equals. Stanton also developed eleven resolutions, one of which stated that women had the duty to secure the right to vote. When some of the more conservative women of the group protested against this particular resolution, Stanton stood her ground. She recognized that having power in making laws would grant them more power to secure other rights.
The Seneca Falls Convention took place on July 19 and 20, 1848, at the local Wesleyan Methodist Church. Little promoting of the event took place; a small ad ran in the local newspaper. The women did not expect a great turnout. July was the busy season for farmers, and Seneca Falls was a rural area.
The convention was attended by three hundred people, including forty men. Since no woman felt she was capable of leading the meeting, Mott's husband, James Mott (1788–1868), presided over the ceremonies. Ten of the eleven resolutions passed, but not the resolution on suffrage. Suffrage was still just too foreign a concept for most Americans in the mid-nineteenth century, but especially to a mostly Quaker audience. (Quakers, also known as the Religious Society of Friends, practice a religion that denounces violence of any kind, and their members rarely vote on legal matters.) One hundred men and women signed the Seneca Falls Declaration, though some later removed their names due to pressure and criticism.
The press did not cover the convention favorably but instead ridiculed its ideas and delegates openly. Stanton was frustrated by the misrepresentation of her cause, but its coverage in the press at all was a step in the right direction. As reported by the Smithsonian Institution, Stanton said, "Imagine the publicity given to our ideas by thus appearing in a widely circulated sheet like the Herald. It will start women thinking, and men too; and when men and women think about a new question, the first step in progress is taken."
Meets Susan B. Anthony
Because both women were dedicated activists, it was only a matter of time before Stanton met Susan B. Anthony. In 1851, that meeting took place, and the two formed an immediate partnership that would last throughout their lifetimes. Stanton was limited to how much she could travel and how many hours she could dedicate to her activism because she was raising a large family. Anthony, on the other hand, was not married, had no children, and could devote as much time as she wanted to her endeavors. As a result, Stanton was the one who came up with ideas and the words with which to convey them, and Anthony took those ideas and words to the world. In her memoir Eighty Years and More, Stanton wrote, "It has been said that I forged the thunderbolts and she fired them." Anthony was more visible in the public's eye, and therefore she became more famous. But in fact, the two women needed each other's strengths to make as much progress as they did.
By the time the Civil War (1861–65) ended, Stanton's children were older and she felt more comfortable traveling and being away from them if necessary. She focused her efforts on suffrage at this time because freed slaves had been given the right to vote, but women still could not. When their efforts saw no progress being made, Stanton, Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage (see box), and other women activists founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) in May 1869. Stanton was the first president; Anthony was its first vice president.
A movement divided
Stanton and Anthony formed the NWSA for a price; they broke from their abolitionist supporters, who they claimed were more interested in getting rights for African Americans than they were for women. The NWSA denounced the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted suffrage for African American men, and it allowed only female members. In response, some activists from New England began a separate rights group (also in 1869), the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). The AWSA was considered a more conservative group, and it focused only on getting the vote. The NWSA, on the other hand, included in its mission other issues that affected women, such as employer discrimination and divorce law.
By the 1880s, Stanton had grown weary of traveling. She changed her focus to writing, and along with Anthony and Gage produced The History of Woman Suffrage, a three-volume set that details and documents the activism of the women's suffrage movement.
When it became evident that the suffrage movement was failing because it was divided from the inside, Stanton and Anthony made the controversial decision to merge with the AWSA. In 1890, under Stanton's leadership, the groups combined forces to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Stanton remained president until 1892, at which time Anthony took over the helm. At her announcement of her retirement, Stanton gave her famous speech, Solitude of Self. In it, she talked about the many reasons why women should be considered the equals of men. The speech is considered Stanton's masterpiece, and even in the twenty-first century, it is considered the most complete and articulate explanation of the ideology upon which the feminist movement was built.
Toward the end of her life, Stanton returned to exploring her interests in the relationship between organized religion and women's subordination (inferior position) to men. She wrote countless articles on the topic. In 1895 and 1898, she published two volumes of controversial biblical commentaries under the title Woman's Bible. In these volumes, she declared her beliefs that the Bible was partial to men and that women who held fast to traditional Christianity obstructed their own abilities to become independent. For her views, Stanton was criticized mightily in the press and from the pulpit. Many fellow women's rights activists turned their back on Stanton at that point for fear that her radicalism would harm their movement. Anthony was not one of them.
Stanton died of heart failure on October 26, 1902, in the New York City apartment she shared with two of her grown children. As reported on the PBS Web site Not for Ourselves Alone, her dear friend Anthony told a reporter, "I am too crushed to speak."
The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted women the right to vote. The amendment became law on August 26, 1920. On November 2, 1920, more than eight million American women exercised their newly acquired right to vote. It had taken them 144 years to achieve full citizenship. Stanton was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1973.
Matilda Joslyn Gage: Forgotten Women's Rights Activist
Although never as famous as Stanton or Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826–1898) was an abolitionist who entered the women's rights movement in 1852. She worked closely with Anthony and Stanton in the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), and the leadership roles of these three women often overlapped.
Gage helped organize the Virginia and New York state suffrage associations and was an officer in her home-state New York branch for twenty years. The NWSA's official newspaper, National Citizen and Ballot Box, was published from her New York home from 1878 to 1881.
In 1880, the New York Woman Suffrage Association gained the right for the women of the state of New York to run for office in school elections and to vote in them as well. Gage organized meetings in her Fayetteville home to help women of the town get comfortable with the voting process, and they elected an all-woman slate of officers to the school district. Gage was the first to cast her ballot.
Together, Stanton, Anthony, and Gage edited the first three volumes of the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage (1881–1887). Most of the work was done in Gage's home. Anthony became such a regular figure around the Gage household that the guest room was called the Susan B. Anthony Room.
As years passed, the NWSA became more conservative, and it considered Gage's views on religion radical (extreme). Gage believed that Christianity contributed to women's oppression by men, and she publicly said so. The NWSA did not want to offend its conservative Christian members, who wanted the vote so that they could create a more Christian nation. Gage believed in the separation of church and state. In 1890, when the NWSA merged with the American Woman Suffrage Association, Gage left Stanton and Anthony to form the Woman's National Liberal Union (WNLU). The WNLU was an antichurch organization whose members included anarchists (believers in a society without government), prison reformers, labor leaders, and feminists. It was considered a radical organization. As a result of her participation in it, Gage lost her friendship with Stanton and Anthony.
Gage wrote a great deal about her causes, but left behind no diary or journal. Other than letters and some newspaper clippings, she left no written record of her personal life. The lack of information about her makes it clear why the name Matilda Joslyn Gage is not as well known as that of Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Susan B. Anthony.
Gage's other claim to fame was that she was mother-in-law to L. Frank Baum (1859–1919), author of the popular classic The Wizard of Oz. Gage encouraged her son-in-law to think about social reform. Their discussions contributed to Baum's literary creation of Oz, a utopian (perfect) city.
For More Information
Bohannon, Lisa Frederiksen. Women's Rights and Nothing Less: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Greensboro, NC: Morgan Reynolds Publishing, 2000.
Brammer, Leila R. Excluded from Suffrage History: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Nineteenth-Century American Feminist. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. Eighty Years and More (1815–1897): Reminiscences of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. New York: European Publishing Co., 1898. Reprint, Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2002.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. The Woman's Bible. New York: European Publishing Co., 1895–98. Reprint, Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2002.
Ward, Geoffrey C. Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1999.
"Elizabeth Cady Stanton." National Park Service: Women's Rights National Historical Park.http://www.nps.gov/wori/ecs.htm (accessed on September 5, 2006).
"Elizabeth Cady Stanton House." Places Where Women Made History.http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/pwwmh/ny10.htm (accessed on September 5, 2006).
Library of Congress. "Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection: 1848–1921." American Memory.http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/naw/nawshome.html (accessed on September 5, 2006).
PBS. Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.http://www.pbs.org/stantonanthony/index.html (accessed on September 5, 2006).
"The Seneca Falls Convention." Smithsonian Institution National Portrait Gallery.http://www.npg.si.edu/col/seneca/senfalls1.htm (accessed on September 5, 2006).
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. "Address: First Women's-Rights Convention." Institute for the Study of Civic Values.http://www.libertynet.org/edcivic/stanton.html (accessed on September 5, 2006).
Wagner, Sally Roesch. "Matilda Joslyn Gage: Forgotten Feminist." New York History.http://www.nyhistory.com/gagepage/gagebio.htm (accessed on September 5, 2006).
Wagner, Sally Roesch. "The Mother of Oz." The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation.http://www.matildajoslyngage.org/motherofoz.htm (accessed on September 5, 2006).
"Women of the Hall: Elizabeth Cady Stanton." National Women's Hall of Fame.http://www.greatwomen.org/women.php?action=viewone&id=149 (accessed on September 5, 2006).
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady
STANTON, ELIZABETH CADY
STANTON, ELIZABETH CADY . Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902) was a principal leader and philosopher of the American woman's rights movement of the nineteenth century. Her religious importance derives from The Woman's Bible (1895–1898), written and edited late in her career, and from her influence in inspiring feminism to a rational, antidogmatic attitude to faith.
Stanton was born in Johnstown, New York. Her father, Daniel Cady, was a prominent lawyer, congressman, and judge. When none of her brothers lived to maturity, Elizabeth wanted to become like a son to please him. Although she never succeeded in satisfying her father, her precocious intellect did gain the notice of her family's Scottish Presbyterian minister, Simon Hosack, who tutored her in ancient languages. Her father's profession also shaped her sensitivity to legal protection and political details. Shocked by women's lack of rights in divorce and custody cases, she prioritized such issues throughout her career, directly challenging traditional bastions of male authority. Her analysis and thorough articulation of structural sexism were exemplary, and they were complemented by her abilities as a polemical writer.
Stanton experienced the tumult of the Second Great Awakening preacher Charles Finney while a student at Emma Willard's school in the early 1830s. The young Elizabeth felt susceptible to his rhetoric because of her "gloomy Calvinistic training," but upon becoming one of Finney's "victims" she noted, and regretted, the "dethronement of my reason." She deemed herself saved by intellection, by science, rationality, and progress.
After her schooling was finished, Elizabeth became involved with the antislavery movement. Through her cousin, Gerrit Smith, she met her future husband, Henry Stanton (1805–1887), one of the Lane Seminary rebels and an ardent abolitionist. Though her father objected to the marriage, it went forward in 1840, with a significant change in the marriage vows: Elizabeth refused to "obey" an equal, so that command was dropped. Their honeymoon brought more substantive change, as the couple attended the 1840 World's Anti-Slavery Congress in London. Some American groups included women delegates, but the British hosts refused to seat them. However, it was here that Stanton met the Quaker Lucretia Mott, who embodied a fuller range of possibilities for women. While living in Boston, Stanton's liberal religious outlook was reinforced as she absorbed Unitarian and transcendentalist ideas, and as she met more women leaders, including Lydia Maria Child and the Grimké sisters.
Stanton's own fame blossomed with the fulfillment of plans she and Mott had formulated to hold a woman's rights conference. This finally occured in 1848, when the first Women's Rights Convention in the United States was held in Stanton's new hometown of Seneca Falls, New York. Stanton wrote the convention's bold Declaration of Sentiments, adopting the rhetoric of the Declaration of Independence and condemning male usurpation of authority over women in matters religious, "when that belongs to her conscience and her God."
Stanton's 1850 meeting with Susan B. Anthony marked a turning point in the women's rights movement. Their ardent friendship lasted over fifty years and became one of the most productive partnerships in American political history. Due to child-care and household concerns (the Stantons had seven children), Stanton emerged as the writer of the pair, while Anthony traveled and lectured for women's rights. While they prioritized voting rights, they never made this the exclusive focus of their wider goal: recognizing women's full humanity.
During the Civil War, Anthony and Stanton formed the Loyal League, which urged the immediate emancipation of slaves. Stanton herself began to travel and speak during this period, developing into an accomplished orator. In the postwar period, however, serious splits occurred among progressive advocates of increased voting rights. Angered by what they saw as a betrayal of women by those who advanced suffrage for African American men only, Stanton and Anthony allied themselves with racist and xenophobic forces. Stanton argued explicitly for the fitness of educated white women as voters over freed slaves and immigrants, whom she caricatured as "Sambo" and "Yung Tung." Stanton's rhetoric alienated former allies, including Mott, Lucy Stone, and Wendell Phillips. This period has compromised Stanton's legacy and fueled ongoing conflict in American feminism over class and race. The woman suffrage movement broke into two competing organizations in 1869: the National Woman Suffrage Association (led by Anthony and Stanton) and the rival American Woman Suffrage Association. By the time the organizations were reunited in 1890, the woman suffrage cause was bereft of its abolitionist roots.
The visibility of the woman suffrage movement increased through the last quarter of the nineteenth century, as did its sense of its own history. With Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage, Stanton edited and wrote the first three volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage (1881–1887), an admirably exhaustive chronicle of the movement. Opposition, and occasional support, from religious leaders mark many of its pages.
Stanton had always scrutinized legal restrictions on women, but became increasingly concerned with religious limitations. In her last twenty years she wrote two major texts: her autobiography, Eighty Years and More (1898), and The Woman's Bible, which she wrote and edited. These texts reveal her religious stance. Her autobiography presents her tireless opposition to superstition and her lifelong embrace of liberal religious inquiry—her freethinking mind investigated theories of Charles Darwin, the matriarchate, and theosophy.
Stanton planned The Woman's Bible as a commentary and analysis on scriptural passages concerning women. She invited many women religious leaders and intellectuals to participate, but only a handful responded, fearing a backlash from a conservative religious public would damage the suffrage cause. Prominent contributors included Eva Parker Ingersoll and Gage (author of another stinging critique of patriarchal religion, Woman, Church, and State ). In her commentaries, Stanton praises strong women (her assessment of Eve's "courage" and "ambition" is justly famous), condemns inconsistencies as "a great strain on credulity," rejects auto-validating claims of inspiration, and urges women to self-sovereignty rather than self-sacrifice. Stanton and her collaborators used humor, science, logic, common sense, and principles of justice to read against the grain of traditional biblical interpretation.
During Stanton's lifetime, The Woman's Bible met a chilly reception. It was parodied, denounced, or belittled by reviewers. The crushing blow came when the organization Stanton herself had led, now called the National-American Woman Suffrage Association, officially dissociated itself from the book. Despite the eloquent plea of Susan B. Anthony in her defense, this 1896 vote effectively ended Stanton's official role in the suffrage movement.
The Woman's Bible remained forgotten until the women's liberation movement of the 1970s. Feminist scholars and practitioners of religion found its method and content congenial: it was collaborative, questioned received authority, established a feminist legacy of biblical interpretation, and outlined how gender bias shaped sacred texts. However, The Woman's Bible has had its modern critics, particularly over its anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish biases.
At her death in 1902 many of Stanton's contemporaries memorialized her as an undaunted leader, while ignoring her analysis of belief and scripture. Yet her religious critique may well ensure her importance to future generations.
Three editions of The Woman's Bible are available: The (Original) Feminist Attack on the Bible (The Woman's Bible), edited by Barbara Welty (New York, 1974); The Woman's Bible : Part 1: The Pentateuch ; Part 2: Judges, Kings, Prophets, and Apostles, edited by the Coalition Task Force on Women and Religion (Seattle, Wash., 1974); and The Woman's Bible, foreword by Maureen Fitzgerald (Boston, 1993). Kathi Lynn Kern's Mrs. Stanton's Bible (Ithaca, N.Y., 2001) is an excellent full-length study. Two commentary projects motivated by Stanton's Bible were published by feminist scholars on its one hundredth anniversary: The Women's Bible Commentary, edited by Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe (London and Louisville, Ky., 1992; expanded ed., 1998), and Searching the Scriptures, 2 vols., edited by Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (New York, 1993–1994).
Many of Stanton's works are being issued in a proposed six-volume critical edition, with Ann D. Gordon serving as editor: The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony ; Vol. 1: In the School of Anti-Slavery, 1840 to 1866 (New Brunswick, N.J., 1997); Vol. 2: Against an Aristocracy of Sex (New Brunswick, N.J., 2000). The contemporary edition of Stanton's autobiography, Eighty Years and More: Reminiscences, 1815–1897 (Evanston, Ill., 1993), includes essays by Gordon and Ellen DuBois.
Biographical studies of Stanton include Alma Lutz, Created Equal: A Biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1815–1902 (New York, 1940); Elizabeth Griffith, In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (New York, 1984), and Lois Banner, Elizabeth Cady Stanton: A Radical for Women's Rights (Boston, 1980). The biography assembled by her children Theodore Stanton and Harriot Stanton Blatch, Elizabeth Cady Stanton as Revealed in Her Letters, Diary, and Reminiscences (New York, 1922) is heavily edited and unreliable. For general background on the suffrage movement, Ellen DuBois's Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848–1869, 2d ed. (Ithaca, N.Y., 1999) remains the basic work on the period, while the book accompanying Ken Burns's documentary, Geoffrey C. Ward's Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (New York, 1999), provides a good introduction for the general reader. James E. Goodman, "The Origins of the 'Civil War' in the Reform Community: Elizabeth Cady Stanton on Woman's Rights and Reconstruction" in Critical Matrix 1, no. 2 (1985): 1–29, presents a detailed account of the immediate post–Civil War divisions.
Jennifer Rycenga (2005)
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady (1815-1902)
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)
Woman’s rights leader
Quest for Equality. Born on 12 November 1815, in Johnstown, New York, Elizabeth Cady Staton was from an early age determined to demonstrate that women were the equal of men and to help them secure better treatment. In her father’s law office, she heard the grievances of women whose property passed into the control of their husbands on marriage and whose children were presumptively awarded to the father in divorce proceedings. She later recalled that upon the death of her only brother in 1826 she took motivation from her father’s lamentation to her, “Oh, my daughter, I wish you were a boy!” Her education included studies in Greek, Latin, and mathematics as well as development of proficiency in traditionally male activities like horseback riding and chess. In 1832 she graduated from Emma Willard’s Troy Female Seminary, perhaps the most influential women’s educational institution in the country.
Reform Community. During the 1830s Elizabeth Cady became involved in temperance and antislavery activities in part through the connections of her cousin Gerrit Smith, a wealthy supporter of reform initiatives. In 1840 she married abolitionist Henry B. Stanton and immediately after their wedding traveled to London so her new husband could serve as a delegate to the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention. Controversy broke out at the convention over the exclusion of women delegates, in the course of which she became friendly with Lucretia Mott, the distinguished Quaker reformer from Philadelphia. The two agreed to hold a convention for woman’s rights in the United States, but little came of the project for the next several years. Stanton spent part ofthat time in Boston, where she developed close relations with Lydia Maria Child, Maria Weston Chapman, Frederick Douglass, Theodore Parker, and other reformers. She also had three children during the first five years of her marriage, with another four to follow during the 1850s.
Woman’s Rights Movement. One year after her husband’s health prompted a move from Boston to Seneca Falls, New York, Stanton and Mott sponsored in July 1848 the woman’s rights convention that they had projected in London. Stanton drafted the Declaration of Sentiments for the convention, a pointed adaptation of the Declaration of Independence that represented the first public call for woman suffrage. Prior to the Seneca Falls convention she had lobbied in support of the married women’s property act passed by the New York legislature in March 1848. Stanton promoted her cause in many ways, contributing articles to the New York Tribune, wearing for a time the “Bloomer” outfit developed by her cousin Elizabeth Smith Miller, and in 1851 forming a historic friendship with Susan B. Anthony. The two women were in many ways different. Stanton was cosmopolitan, gregarious, wide-ranging in her interests, and an able writer; Anthony was single-minded in her dedication to the suffrage movement, tenacious, and effective in administrative matters. Often kept at home by family duties, Stanton wrote many speeches and resolutions that Anthony presented at meetings. Stanton also made personal appearances in New York, addressing the legislature in 1854 in support of an expanded married women’s property act and serving as president of the Woman’s State Temperance Society, through which she advocated liberalization of divorce laws to protect wives of alcoholics.
Civil War and Reconstruction. Stanton moved from her isolated base in Seneca Falls when her husband was appointed to a position in the New York Custom House, and in May 1863 she teamed again with Anthony to form the Women’s Loyal National League. The organization collected three hundred thousand signatures on a petition for a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery, and Stanton also sought to promote emancipation by endorsing the nomination of a Republican presidential candidate more radical than Abraham Lincoln in 1864. When the war ended, Stanton and Anthony moved swiftly to demand the inclusion of women in the redefinition of citizenship and voting rights under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. But even strong supporters of reform agreed with Wendell Phillips that “this is the Negro’s hour.” Stanton and Anthony in turn launched a campaign to block the Reconstruction amendments, hoping for a reconsideration. Their resort to arguments grounded in privileges of class and ethnicity alienated many former allies. “Think of Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Ung Tung,” Stanton baited, “who do not know the difference between a Monarchy and a Republic, who never read the Declaration of Independence… making laws for Lydia Maria Child, Lucretia Mott, or Fanny Kemble.” In May 1869 the bitter dispute shattered the Equal Rights Association, which had urged enfranchisement of women as well as blacks.
Continuing the Struggle. After the breakup of the Equal Rights Association, Stanton and Anthony promptly organized the National Woman Suffrage Association, which Stanton served as president for the next twenty-one years. She continued to promote the cause of woman’s rights through various lectures and publications during this period. When in 1890 the National Woman Suffrage Association merged with its more conservative rival, the American Woman Suffrage Association, Stanton headed the combined organization for two years before retiring to devote more time to writing. She spent much time during her last years absorbed in the study of religion and working on the Woman’s Bible (1895–1898), which reinterpreted passages of scripture that were derogatory to women. In a gala at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York on the occasion of her eightieth birthday, she underscored one of the most important themes of her career by dismissing the idea that religion or nature assigned women to a “separate sphere” from the domain of men and urging women to continue the struggle to assume positions of leadership in churches, business, and politics. Stanton died in 1902.
Ellen Carol Dubois, Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women’s Movement in America, 1848–1869 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1978);
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady
STANTON, ELIZABETH CADY
The opening salvo in the battle for women's rights was fired in 1848 by the grande dame of U.S. feminism, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. When Stanton and colleague Lucretia Mott organized the nation's first women's rights convention in 1848, in Seneca Falls, New York, they sought nothing less than a revolution. They pressed for equal education, better employment opportunities, and the vote for women—radical notions in the mid–nineteenth-century United States. For fifty years, Stanton was a key strategist and standard-bearer for the feminist movement. Along
with fellow suffragist susan b. anthony and other activists, she helped elevate the legal, social, and political status of U.S. women.
"The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the wayofwomen's emancipation."
Stanton was born November 12, 1815, in Johnstown, New York. She was the middle daughter of Daniel Cady and Margaret Livingston Cady, a prominent couple in Johnstown. Elizabeth was one of eleven children, but all five of her brothers and one sister died during childhood. In some ways, Stanton was raised by her parents as a substitute for those deceased brothers. Unlike most girls of her generation, Stanton participated in athletic activities and excelled in courses typically reserved for males, such as
Latin, Greek, logic, philosophy, and economics. Stanton's father, a lawyer and a New York Supreme Court judge, even encouraged her to study law with him, although later he regretted his actions: as an adult, Stanton used her legal knowledge to craft well-reasoned arguments for women's rights, a cause he disliked.
After she graduated from Johnstown Academy in 1830 at age fifteen, Stanton's ambition was to attend New York's Union College. Her enrollment was impossible, however, because Union, like every other college in the entire nation, did not admit women as students. (Ohio's Oberlin College was the first U.S. college to accept female students, in 1834.) Instead of Union College, Stanton attended Troy Female Seminary, in Troy, New York. She graduated in 1833.
Stanton returned to Johnstown, where she divided her time between the pleasant diversions of upper-class life and the important social causes of the day. Despite her parents' objections, she married an abolitionist, Henry Brewster Stanton, in 1840. From the beginning of their marriage, Stanton insisted on being addressed in public by her full name. Throughout her long life, only her political enemies called her Mrs. Henry Stanton.
While attending an international antislavery conference in London with her new husband in 1840, Stanton met Mott, a Quaker activist involved in the nascent U.S. women's movement. Stanton and Mott became quick friends and allies. Both were outraged over the refusal of the male antislavery leaders to seat female delegates at the London conference. Back in the United States, the two corresponded and sometimes joined forces in abolitionist activities. They also finalized plans for the nation's first women's rights convention.
In 1848, one hundred women and men gathered in Seneca Falls for the historic convention. The agenda included a speech by renowned African American abolitionist frederick douglass, and a proposal to adopt Stanton's manifesto, the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments. The Seneca Falls declaration was inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence. It boldly proclaimed that all men and women were equal and that women deserved greater protection under the law. The declaration called for the expansion of employment and educational opportunities for women, and the right for women to vote. After lengthy debate, it was adopted in its entirety by the convention.
The seneca falls convention was derided by the press—prompting Stanton to complain that its participants "were neither sour old maids, childless women, nor divorced wives as the newspapers declared them to be." Nevertheless, the convention succeeded in bringing women's issues to the political forefront.
After Seneca Falls, Stanton was an acknowledged leader of the U.S. women's movement. She soon joined forces with Anthony, the country's most prominent suffragist. For the next fifty years, Anthony was Stanton's staunchest feminist ally.
In addition to women's rights and abolition, Stanton was involved in temperance, the movement to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol in the United States. Combining temperance with women's rights made sense to Stanton, both philosophically and practically. Drunken men destroyed the lives of powerless wives and children. Without laws to protect them, women who were married to chronic drinkers often faced physical abuse and financial ruin. The Married Women's Property Act of 1848 addressed this imbalance in legal power. Stanton helped win passage of the law by conducting an exhaustive petition drive throughout the state of New York.
Although Stanton supported temperance wholeheartedly, she was angered that the movement's male leaders were just as misguided as the abolitionists at the London antislavery conference. When Stanton attempted to participate in a Sons of Temperance meeting, she was summarily removed from the building. She and Anthony formed their own group, the Woman's State Temperance Society, in 1852.
The women's movement stalled around the time of the u.s. civil war because many of its supporters focused exclusively on abolition. As president of the National Woman's Loyal League, Stanton helped gather four hundred thousand signatures on petitions in support of the thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery. After the war, Stanton and Anthony were bitterly disappointed when their abolitionist colleagues refused to support the inclusion of women in either the fourteenth amendment, which granted African American males citizenship, or the fifteenth amendment, which gave those males the right to vote. Stanton and Anthony formed the National Woman's Suffrage Association in 1869 with the sole purpose of winning the vote for women.
Because Stanton was busy with her family of seven children, she initially worked at her home on voting rights strategy while Anthony traveled the country delivering lectures. Later, this arrangement changed as Stanton became a sought-after speaker during the 1870s in the lyceum movement, a series of cultural and educational programs for adults.
As Stanton grew older, she became even more radical in her thinking. She shocked people with her pro-divorce, pro-labor, and antireligion opinions. In particular, her book Woman's Bible, published partially in 1895 and partially in 1898, drew fire because in it, Stanton lambasted what she viewed as the male bias of the Bible. When Stanton suggested that all organized religion oppressed women and should therefore be abolished, many felt she had gone too far. These unpopular opinions explain why some feminists disassociated themselves from Stanton and looked exclusively to Anthony for leadership.
Stanton also helped compile three of the six volumes of the less controversial History of Woman Suffrage, published from 1881 to 1886, with coauthor Matilda Joslyn Gage.
On Stanton's eightieth birthday, she was honored at a gala in New York City's Metropolitan Opera House. Looking back at her life, she told a crowd of six thousand people that she had been warned repeatedly against organizing the Seneca Falls convention. People told her it was a huge mistake because God had set the bounds of a woman's world and she should be satisfied with it. Stanton remarked that it was exactly this type of repressive attitude that led to her embrace of the women's movement.
Stanton died October 26, 1902, in New York City, at the age of eighty-six. Although she did not witness the passage of the nineteenth amendment, which gave nearly 25 million U.S. women the right to vote in 1920, she left her imprint on it.
Griffith, Elisabeth. 1984. In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. 1898. Eighty Years and More: Reminiscences, 1815–1897. Reprint, 2002. Amherst, N.Y.: Humanity Books.
Wellman, Judith. 2004. The Road to Seneca Falls: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the First Woman's Rights Convention. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady
The writer and reformer Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902) was perhaps the most gifted feminist leader in American history.
The makings of a feminist
Elizabeth Cady was born in Johnstown, New York, on November 12, 1815. She came from a wealthy and politically important family. Her father, Daniel Cady (1773–1859), was a well-known lawyer who had served in Congress, on the New York state legislature, and as a judge on the New York state supreme court. Her mother came from a wealthy family whose members had included a hero of the American Revolution (1775–83), when the thirteen British colonies in North America fought for their freedom.
The Cadys had eleven children, most of whom did not survive to adulthood. Eleazar Cady, their only son to survive, died when he was twenty, leaving them with four daughters. In her autobiography, Eighty Years and More, Stanton related her father's feelings at having lost all his male heirs. Although the eleven-year-old Elizabeth attempted to console him, his reaction was to tell her, "Oh, my daughter, I wish you were a boy." The experience made young Cady determined to be the equal of any male. She tried hard to please her father by excelling in areas normally reserved for men, starting with Greek and horsemanship.
Cady's father's profession also led her to embrace the cause of women's rights. As the daughter of a judge, she was exposed early to the legal barriers to women's equality. While still a child, she heard her father tell abused women that they had no legal alternative but to endure mistreatment by their husbands and fathers. She was especially outraged by the rights of husbands to control their wives' property.
Education and marriage
As a young woman, Elizabeth Cady studied at the Troy Female Seminary from 1830 to 1833. She had the best education then available to women. The school offered a strong academic course of studies in addition to the more typical educational options for women at that time—which tended to focus on developing social skills. However, while at Troy, she experienced a nervous collapse after experiencing a religious conversion (change) that filled her with fears that she would go to hell. After this experience, she developed an intense dislike toward organized religion.
In 1840 she married the abolitionist (a person who is against slavery) leader Henry B. Stanton (1805–1887). Her feminist side showed at the wedding ceremony, in which she insisted (and Stanton agreed) that she would not give the wife's traditional promise to "obey" her husband. Keeping her maiden name as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, rather than going by the name of Mrs. Henry B. Stanton, was also unusual at the time.
Working for suffrage
Although Henry Stanton sympathized with his wife's ambitions for a wider role in the world, he was not wealthy, and she remained home with her five children for many years. All the same, she was able to do some writing and speaking for the feminist cause. In 1848 she organized America's first woman's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, where the Stantons lived. She also composed a declaration of principles, which described the history of humankind as one in which men had repeatedly and intentionally suppressed the rights of women in order to establish "absolute tyranny" over them. Despite opposition, she persuaded the convention to approve a resolution calling for women's suffrage, or women's right to vote.
The Civil War (1861–65) was fought between the northern states and southern states to decide whether or not slavery would be allowed in new territories, and whether or not the South would leave the Union to form an independent nation. During the war Stanton and her ally Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) created the National Woman's Loyal League to build support for what became the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which ended slavery in the United States. Once the slaves were free, Stanton and Anthony worked to ensure that women would be given the vote along with former male slaves. However, it was thought that if the struggle to gain the right to vote for black men was associated with votes for women, neither black men nor women of any color would get the vote.
This opposition only made Stanton and her colleagues more stubborn. Their campaign finally divided the women's suffrage movement into two camps. One was their own, New York-based band of uncompromising radicals (people who are extreme in their political beliefs), called the National Woman Suffrage Association. The other was a more conservative group, the American Woman Suffrage Association, which was centered in Boston and supported the idea that attaining the vote for black men was more important than demanding the vote for women. There were several differences in the positions of the two organizations, and a good deal of personal hostility developed between them. By 1890, however, these problems were overcome, and the two organizations merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Stanton became the group's president.
Stanton remained active during her later years, however, she was less concerned with suffrage and more interested in reforming divorce laws and other similar matters. A stylish and witty writer, she worked with Anthony and Matilda Gage on the first three volumes of the massive collection History of Woman Suffrage and edited The Woman's Bible. Stanton also wrote articles on a variety of subjects for the best magazines of her time. She died on October 26, 1902, in New York City. With Susan B. Anthony, she is recognized today as one of the most important figures in the early movement to gain women's rights in the United States.
For More Information
Griffith, Elisabeth. In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. Eighty Years and More. New York: European Publishing Company, 1898, revised edition 2002.
Ward, Geoffrey C. Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. New York: Knopf, 1999.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady (1815-1902)
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)
Reformer, suffragist, and writer
Marriage. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born in Johnstown, New York, the daughter of a prominent lawyer. As a girl she was moved by the grief of her father’s female clients who learned that they had no legal identity as wives, that they were not the owners of their own property and wages, and that their children could be taken from them if they separated from their abusive or drunkard husbands. Such scenes convinced her early that women were at a serious disadvantage in society. While young she was provided with no formal education, but she worked hard to educate herself, borrowing her brother’s books to learn Greek and Latin. At the age of sixteen she left home to attend Emma Willard’s Female Seminary in Troy, New York. Going to college was not an option as none was yet open to women. When she returned home she developed an interest in the temperance and abolition movements through the influence of her cousin Gerrit Smith, and at the age of twenty-four she married the abolitionist Henry Stanton. Elizabeth insisted on absolute equality in the marriage, a stipulation that Henry accepted by agreeing to leave out the word obey from their marriage vows. The newlyweds spent their honeymoon in London as delegates to the World Anti-Slavery Convention, where Elizabeth was precluded from participating. Instead she spent her days with Lucretia Mott, who convinced her of the necessity of fighting for the rights of women as well as slaves. The two decided that they would continue their conversations in the United States.
Motherhood and Reform. Stanton had seven children, and her duties as a mother limited her participation in the reform movements that had won her heart. Over the years, while her responsibilities kept her at home, she trained herself as a writer and used her pen to fight for justice. In 1848, when she met up with Mott again for the first time since their days in London, the two women organized the first American women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York. Stanton drafted the Declaration of Sentiments and resolutions that the convention adopted. She was especially insistent that the enfranchisement resolution be adopted, despite the resistance of many of those present, and thus launched the suffrage movement that would gather momentum at the end of the century. In the years following the Seneca Falls convention Stanton continued to attend women’s rights meetings, developing a close relationship with Susan B. Anthony, whom she convinced to transfer her energies from temperance reform to women’s rights. For Stanton women’s rights became a necessary preliminary to all other reform because women’s participation in other reform causes was being challenged at every turn. Stanton believed that “it is woman’s duty to speak whenever she feels the impression to do so; … it is her right to be present in all the councils of Church and State.” Stanton and Anthony became the leaders of the movement as Stanton wrote speeches and developed her ideas while Anthony, who was not married, traveled around the country drumming up support. Stanton, more than any other early women’s rights advocate, articulated objectives more radical than most believed would be acceptable to the public, including not only the right to vote but also the reform of married women’s property laws and divorce laws. On these issues she made some progress; in 1860 New York State granted women guardianship of their children in case of divorce and the right to their own property and wages while married.
After the War. While the Civil War diverted attention away from reform, Stanton picked up where she left off once the war was over. With her children grown she devoted more time and energy to the cause. She ran for Congress in 1866, receiving twenty-four out of twelve hundred votes (all cast by men). As the Fifteenth Amendment was debated, women rallied for their right to vote along with African American males. When the American Woman Suffrage Association voted to back away from the issue and not fight for women to be included, Stanton retorted that she would “cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work for or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.” Anthony joined Stanton in creating a new organization in 1869, the National Woman Suffrage Association, to push for a constitutional amendment granting women the vote. Stanton served as president of the organization from 1890 to 1892, and continued to lecture and write on behalf of the broad-ranging reforms that were needed to improve women’s lives, including woman suffrage, educational opportunities, dress reform, divorce, and opposition to oppression of organized religion. She retained her commitment to the larger picture that had convinced her to help initiate a movement for women’s rights in 1848.
Lois W. Banner, Elizabeth Cady Stanton: A Radical for Woman’s Rights (Boston: Little, Brown, 1980);
Elizabeth Griffith, In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth cady Stanton (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984).
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady
STANTON, Elizabeth Cady
Daughter of Daniel and Margaret Livingston Cady; married Henry Brewster Stanton, 1840; children: seven
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the fourth of six children. Her father was a lawyer, politician, and judge. Listening to his clients and reading his law books, she learned at an early age of the injustices women suffer. When the family's only son died in 1826, she resolved to take his place. She was tutored in Greek by her Presbyterian minister and later studied Latin and mathematics at the Johnstown Academy. She graduated from Emma Willard's Troy Female Seminary in 1832.
A strong advocate of the reforms of the day—temperance, abolition, and women's rights—she had the word "obey" omitted from the ceremony at her marriage to Henry Brewster Stanton, an antislavery lecturer. On their honeymoon, the couple attended a world antislavery convention in London, where Stanton met Lucretia Mott, a delegate the convention refused to seat because she was a woman. After the European tour, they settled in Johnstown, where the first of their seven children was born in 1842. They moved to Boston shortly thereafter and, in 1847, to Seneca Falls, New York. Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first convention for women's rights there in 1848. Stanton was commissioned to draft the Declaration of Principles (later Declaration of Sentiments), in which she included a most controversial resolution demanding suffrage.
Stanton met Susan B. Anthony in 1851, and the two formed a very fruitful collaborative friendship which spanned the next half century. Stanton was the writer and speaker whenever possible; Anthony the strategist, organizer, and intrepid traveler. In the years after the Civil War there were increasing divisions in the women's movement, due partly to differing assessments of priorities. Stanton campaigned against the 14th and 15th Amendments because they did not extend rights to women. This alienated many reformers who argued "this is the Negro's hour." In 1868 Stanton and Anthony published a magazine, Revolution, financed by erratic entrepeneur George Francis Train, in which they included his controversial views on economics and labor unions as well as their own radical views on marriage and divorce. In 1869 Stanton and Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association, which Stanton led as president for 21 years. Other reformers, generally more conservative, formed the American Woman Suffrage Association. When the two suffrage associations merged and became the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1890, Stanton served as president for two years.
In order to finance her children's education, Stanton spent many years delivering lectures, on subjects such as the education of women and divorce, for the New York Lyceum Bureau. Throughout a 50-year career, she wrote many letters and articles, not only on suffrage but on a wide range of social and political questions affecting women, for feminist and general newspapers. In addition to numerous tracts and pamphlets reprinting her speeches and articles, she published three major works.
With Anthony, Stanton edited the first three volumes of the monumental History of Woman's Suffrage (1881-86), covering the years from 1848 to 1885. Admittedly one-sided, their history contains a rich store of speeches, summarized debates, letters, and evaluations of the early women's rights conventions, both national and state. Stanton's most controversial work is The Woman's Bible (2 vols., 1895-1898, reprinted 1999). Her unorthodox views had been known for years, through essays like "The Effect of Woman Suffrage on Questions of Morals and Religion," included in pamphlets such as The Christian Church and Women (1881) and Bible and Church Degrade Women (1885). Stanton believed "whatever the Bible may be made to do in Hebrew or Greek, in plain English it does not exalt and dignify woman." Although she invited a panel of women scholars to assist her, most declined. The bulk of the brief notes on each book are Stanton's, and the results are eclectic and sketchy. Despite an appeal from Anthony for tolerance of differing opinions, the 1896 national convention of the NAWSA passed a resolution dissociating the organization from the work.
Stanton's autobiography, Eighty Years and More (1898), contains the candid and delightful reminiscences of a woman who, at eighty-three, was still trying to expand the frontiers for her sisters.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton as Revealed in Her Letters, Diary, and Reminiscences (edited by T. Stanton and H. S. Blatch, 2 volumes, 1922, reprinted 1969). The Elizabeth Cady Stanton-Susan B. Anthony Reader: Correspondence, Writings, Speeches (1992). Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (1997).
Banner, L. W., Elizabeth Cady Stanton: A Radical for Women's Rights (1987). Blatch, H. S., and A. Lutz, Challenging Years: The Memoirs of Harriot Stanton Blatch (1940). Cimbala, P. A., and R. M. Miller, eds., Against the Tide: Women Reformers in American Society (1997). Cimbala, P. A., and R. M. Miller, eds., American Reform and Reformers: A Biographical Dictionary (1996). DuBois, E. C., Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of the Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848-1869 (1978). DuBois, E. C., ed., Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: Correspondence, Writings, Speeches (1981). Gaylor, A. L., ed., Women Without Superstition: "No Gods—No Masters": The Collected Writings of Women Free-thinkers of the 19th and 20th Centuries (1997). Griffith, E., In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1984). Lutz, A., Created Equal (1940), Lutz, A., Susan B. Anthony: Rebel, Crusader, Humanitarian (1959). McFadden. M., Golden Cables of Sympathy: The Transatlantic Sources of 19th-Century Feminism (1999). Oakley, M. A. B., Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1972). Strange, L. S., Pragmatism and Radicalism in Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Feminist Advocacy: A Rhetorical Biography (dissertation, 1999). Wagner, S. R., Elizabeth Cady Stanton Through Her Stories (1994). Ward, G. C., Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: An Illustrated History (1999). Watson, M., Lives of Their Own: Rhetorical Dimensions in Autobiographies of Women Activists (1999).
Norton Book of American Autobiography (1999). Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995).
—NANCY A. HARDESTY
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady
STANTON, ELIZABETH CADY
(b. November 12, 1815; d. October 16, 1902) Women's rights activist and leader in the Abolitionist movement.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton supported the Civil War to end slavery and to gain equal rights not only for Blacks but also for women. While the war resulted in liberation for slaves, it did not fundamentally change the status of women. The struggle for women's rights would continue long after the war ended.
Stanton was born to a prominent family in Johnstown, New York, on November 12, 1815. Her family's status allowed her the benefit of a sound education. Access to her father's law office made her aware, at an early age, of the injustices that women faced. By law and tradition, women were considered secondary to men and lost access to their property and wages once married. Women could not vote or hold public office. As Stanton matured, she became more aware of reform issues, especially through her wealthy cousin, Garritt Smith. He introduced her to the abolitionist Henry Stanton, and the two married in 1840.
At the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840, which the Stantons attended on their honeymoon, Elizabeth met Quaker minister and abolitionist Lucretia Mott. Though they were official delegates to the Convention, Mott and six other women could not participate because they were female. Mott and Stanton became friends and shared their concerns about the secondary status of women. But it was not until the Stantons moved to Seneca Falls, New York, that Elizabeth and Mott met again. They and three other women discussed the need to hold a convention that focused solely on women's rights.
From this discussion came the Seneca Falls Convention, which marks the beginning of the woman's rights movement. The Convention met July 19 and 20, 1848. Some 300 people from the area attended. Stanton penned the Declaration of Sentiments, modeled on the Declaration of Independence, that stated "that all men and women are created equal." In the document, Stanton demanded women's right to higher education and to professions then closed to them, more liberal divorce laws, property rights for married women, and women's suffrage. The Declaration became the rallying cry for women's struggle for equality during the next several decades.
After Seneca Falls, Stanton's participation in the woman's rights movement was primarily through her writings. Overwhelmed by the rearing of her seven children, she had little time to organize or attend annual woman's rights conventions. Her writings continued to insist that women needed the right to vote, that society needed more liberal divorce laws, and that married women had the right to their own wages and property. In 1851, she met Susan B. Anthony, thus beginning a lifelong collaboration and friendship.
During the Civil War, Stanton became involved in the Women's Loyal National League, uniting women to support the Union and push for the abolition of slavery. Woman's rights issues were put aside, though female activists believed their needs would be addressed at the war's end. Women gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions that demanded abolition through a constitutional amendment.
With the end of the Civil War and of slavery in 1865, Stanton convened the American Equal Rights Association in 1866 to promote universal suffrage. She responded
vehemently to the passage of the Fourteenth (1868) and Fifteenth Amendments (1870) to the Constitution. She and Anthony were angered that the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing citizenship included the word "male." She opposed the Fifteenth Amendment because it gave African-American males the right to vote before women had that right. In 1869, women split over these issues and the direction of the woman's rights movement. Stanton and Anthony formed and led the National Woman Suffrage Association), which pursued a fairly radical agenda, including a federal amendment to ensure women's suffrage. Lucy Stone and others created the American Woman Suffrage Association, which followed a more conservative, state-by-state approach to gain women's suffrage. Not until 1890 did the two groups overlook their differences and unite into one organization, the National American Woman's Suffrage Association.
In the late 1860s, Stanton began to work actively for women's suffrage. She and Anthony lectured nationwide, and Stanton continued to write for several newspapers. But by 1880, she reduced her commitments, tired by the work and overwhelmed by arthritis and her increasing weight. For several years she worked on the multi-volume History of Woman Suffrage published in the 1880s. Stanton became more critical of the direction of the woman's rights effort as a younger group of women became involved. Increasingly frustrated with the conservative stance of ministers towards women's equality, she launched new projects, producing a two-volume Woman's Bible and her autobiography. Her health began to decline; her weight made it difficult for her to get around; and she was blind by 1899. Stanton died at her home in New York on October 16, 1902, well before the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.
Banner, Lois. Elizabeth Cady Stanton: A Radical for Woman's Rights. Boston: Little, Brown, 1980.
Griffith, Elisabeth. In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.
Lutz, Alma. Created Equal: A Biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1815–1902. New York: Day, 1940.
Sally G. McMillen
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born to Margaret and Daniel Cady, wellknown residents of Johnstown, New York , on November 12, 1815. She obtained a high-quality education, excelling in Latin, Greek, and mathematics, and learned to debate and ride horses. She took a genuine interest in learning law from her father. Stanton would be considered well educated in any era of American society, but she was especially so for a woman in the early nineteenth century, when few women received formal schooling of any kind.
Marries and becomes active in politics
Stanton's early activism in two social movements, abolition (the antislavery movement) and temperance (a movement encouraging moderation in drinking alcohol or not drinking at all) brought her into contact with other like-minded people. She married abolitionist Henry B. Stanton (1805–1887) in 1840. Already an independent thinker, Elizabeth had the word “obey” removed from the couple's wedding vows. The Stantons had five sons and two daughters between 1842 and 1859.
The Stantons moved to Seneca Falls, New York, in 1847, where she cared for three children and a large house with no live-in help. Her activism was confined largely to writing, and she published articles in newspapers and magazines. In July 1848 Stanton met with Lucretia Mott (1793–1880) and three other friends. The women decided the time was right to hold the first women's rights convention, where they would discuss “the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman.”
Stanton, the writer of the group, developed the Declaration of Sentiments, which outlined the purpose of the convention. She put forth the idea that men and women were equal and listed eighteen ways in which men did not treat women as their equals. Stanton also developed eleven resolutions, one of which stated that women had the duty to secure the right to vote.
The Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention took place on July 19 and 20, 1848, at the local Wesleyan Methodist Church. Three hundred people, including forty men, attended. Ten of the eleven resolutions passed, but not the resolution on suffrage (the right to vote). Women's suffrage was still just too foreign a concept for most Americans in the mid-nineteenth century.
In 1851 Stanton met fellow activist Susan B. Anthony (1820– 1906), and the two formed a friendship that would last throughout their lifetimes. Stanton came up with ideas and the words with which to convey them, and Anthony took those ideas and words to the world.
After the Civil War (1861–65), Stanton focused her efforts on suffrage. Freed slaves had been given the right to vote, but women still could not. In 1869 Stanton, Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826– 1898), and other women activists founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). Stanton was the first president, and Anthony its first vice president.
A movement divided
Stanton and Anthony formed the NWSA for a price; they broke from their abolitionist supporters, who they claimed were more interested in getting rights for African Americans than for women. The NWSA, which allowed only female members, denounced the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted suffrage for African American men. In response, some activists from New England began a separate rights group (also in 1869), the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). The AWSA focused only on getting the vote. The NWSA, on the other hand, included in its mission other issues that affected women, such as employer discrimination and divorce law. Later, in 1890, the two organizations joined forces to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Stanton was president until 1892, followed by Anthony.
Toward the end of her life, Stanton returned to exploring her interests in the relationship between organized religion and women's subordination (inferior position) to men. She wrote countless articles on the topic. In 1895 and 1898, she published two volumes of controversial biblical commentaries, Woman's Bible, in which she declared her beliefs that the Bible was partial to men and that women who held fast to traditional Christianity obstructed their own abilities to become independent. The press and clergy criticized her mightily.
Stanton died of heart failure on October 26, 1902, in New York City. On August 26, 1920, women were granted the right to vote.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
The writer and reformer Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) was perhaps the most gifted and versatile feminist leader in American history.
Elizabeth Cady was born in Johnstown, N.Y., on Nov. 12, 1815. The daughter of a judge, she became a feminist while still a child after hearing her father inform abused women that they had no legal alternative but to endure mistreatment by their husbands and fathers. She had the best education then available to women. While completing her studies at the Troy Female Seminary, she experienced a nervous collapse on hearing the great revivalist James Finney preach; henceforth she had an intense hostility toward organized religion.
In 1840 Elizabeth Cady married the abolitionist leader Henry B. Stanton. Although he sympathized with her ambitions, he was not wealthy, and she remained home with her five children for many years. All the same, she was able to do some writing and speaking for the feminist cause. In 1848 she organized America's first woman's-rights convention, held in Seneca Falls, N.Y., where the Stantons resided. She also composed a declaration of principles, which described the history of mankind as one of "repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her." Despite opposition, she persuaded the convention to approve a resolution calling for women's suffrage.
During the Civil War, Stanton and her friend and ally Susan B. Anthony created the National Woman's Loyal League to build support for what became the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Once the slaves were free, the two worked to ensure that women would be enfranchised along with the freedmen. However, their work was seen as a threat to the black franchise. If the struggle to enfranchise black males was associated with votes for women, it was thought, neither black men nor women of any color would get the vote. But this opposition only made the Stantonites more stubborn. Their campaign finally divided the women's suffrage movement into two camps: their own New York-based band of uncompromising radicals, the National Woman Suffrage Association, and a more conservative group, the American Woman Suffrage Association, which was centered in Boston and accepted the primacy of black suffrage. There were several ideological differences between the two organizations, and a good deal of personal animosity developed. By 1890, however, these were overcome, and the two organizations merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Stanton as president.
Although Stanton remained active into old age, she was less concerned with suffrage and more interested in divorce reform and other matters during her last years. A fluent and witty writer, she collaborated with Anthony and Matilda Gage on the first three volumes of the massive History of Woman Suffrage and edited The Woman's Bible. Mrs. Stanton also wrote articles on a variety of subjects for the best contemporary magazines. She died on Oct. 26, 1902, in New York City.
Mrs. Stanton's autobiography, Eighty Years and More (1898), is engaging; it should be supplemented by Harriet Stanton Blatch and Theodore Stanton, eds., Elizabeth Cady Stanton as Revealed in Her Letters, Diary and Reminiscences (2 vols., 1922). Volumes 1-3 of the History of Woman Suffrage (1881-1888), which she edited with Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage, contain important material, as does volume 4 (1903), edited by Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper. A good biography is Alma Lutz, Created Equal: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1815-1902 (1940). □