kidsnav.gif (4714 bytes)

Contact Us

The Woman's Rights Movement & Lessons for us all

Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

From: Webmaster (
Date: Wed May 08 2002 - 11:15:39 EDT

This is a message from a mailing list,
Unsubscribe instructions at bottom of message.

Good People & People of Faith:

The following message contains a little bit of history regarding
the Woman's Rights movement -- also available at the web site,
http://www.AKidsRight.Org/civil_back.htm (bibliography avail)

The Woman's Rights Movement
Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony

This is perhaps a study in contrast.  What follows below is NOT an
example of NonViolent Action as shown in the movements of Martin
Luther King and Gandhi.  In many ways it represents the same words and
methods used by some groups today in their search for Family Law
Reform.  But was it effective?  There was certainly no shortage of
name calling and petition signatures.  There are many similarities to
the decisions faced today. The thoughts expressed below are those of
the authors.


Elizabeth Cady Stanton has been called the founder and philosopher of
the Woman's Rights movement. For many years she was its chief writer
and speaker, she helped define many goals.  She was born in 1815 in
Upstate New York.  She was born into a good home, her father, Judge
Daniel Cady was a distinguished lawyer and a member of the New York
Legislature.  She was the fourth of five daughters in the family after
the death of the only son.  Her father encouraged her studies and
independent thought.  She achieved much more education that was
commonly given woman at that time.  He showed her how laws could be
changed, and strangely enough -- while agreeing the laws should be
changed, her Father was mostly reluctant to see her involved in such
"non feminine" activities.

She was very suspect of organized religion and the preachers of the
day who used biblical pages to keep "women in their place."  As she
says about herself, "My religious superstitions gave place to rational
ideas based on scientific facts and ... as I looked at everything from
a new standpoint, I grew more and more happy."

In 1839 she met Harry Stanton, a man who was quite active in the anti
slavery movement of the time. In a very short time he proposed and she
accepted.  Everyone opposed the marriage, especially her father who
objected to the abolitionists and doubted he could support her
daughter.  Under the pressure, she broke off the engagement, but a
year later, felt she needed to run her own life.  They were married
and both understood it was a marriage of equals, the word "obey" was
removed from the ceremony and she also kept her maiden name, becoming:
Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  In the course of their life together they had
several children.

Susan B. Anthony born in 1820 had been given many more opportunities
as a Quaker, a group which had a strong tradition of equality of
women.  Her father was quite supportive of his daughters and tried to
give them the best education possible. He encouraged them to be self
reliant and self supporting.  Susan soon went to school and worked as
a teacher.  She was considered quite honest, and while in youth a bit
intolerant and severe in her moral judgments, these were tempered by
her sense of humor and sympathy for people. She chose never to marry,
but dedicated her life to the movement for reform..

She first became active in the Daughters of Temperance (an
anti-drinking organization).  Her father had also become a dedicated
abolitionist by the 1840s.

-----  The First Woman's Rights Convention

In 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, called for a Woman's
Rights Convention to be held in Seneca Falls, NY.  They ran the
announcement in a local paper.  They decided to develop a "Declaration
of Sentiments and Resolutions."  They drew much of the wording as a
parody from the Declaration of Independence.  At the last minute
Elizabeth added the following, "It is the duty of the women of this
country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective
franchise."  Her husband thought that was going too far, and even
Lucretia Mott thought " will make us ridiculous!  We must go
slowly." Although this was to be a convention of and for women, it was
unthinkable to have a woman serve as the chairman -- a man was chosen.

On the second day the convention voted on the Declaration of
Sentiments, all the resolutions were passed easily except for the one
on the right to vote.  This was too extreme for many in the
audience. They felt such an excessive demand would arouse such
antagonism and derision that the movement would be killed.  After
extensive and angry debate, the resolution passed by a small margin.

Of all the women in Seneca Falls that day, Charlotte Woodward would be
the only one alive to cast her first vote some seventy two years later
in 1920, when the US Constitution was finally amended.

There was a tremendous public outcry against the goals of the
convention, for a time even Elizabeth was hesitant to continue -- but
she agreed to take part in another meeting to be held two weeks later
in Rochester, New York.  Another group of woman organized this event
and they insisted the session be conducted by a woman.  This was
opposed by Elizabeth and Lucretia Mott, they called it a "dangerous
experiment," and almost walked out of the meeting before it started --
but they were finally convinced to stay.  Thank goodness for a spirit
of compromise!

-----  Women's Rights, Abolition, and the Christian Temperance Movements

These three movements were quite connected, and at times appeared to
have conflicting goals.  Women like Stanton and Anthony got much of
there early experience in the efforts against Slavery and Drinking --
these groups had many female member and provided for "networking" to
develop between women.  Many times their speaking engagements during
"road trips" were devoted to both abolition and the cause of women's
rights.  However -- there were conflicts and differences in goals.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton's ideas about "religious superstitions' and
easier divorce did not sit well with some female members of the
Christian Temperance Movement.  At times, women were also asked to
delay their search for equality and the vote until those rights could
be secured by Black men first.  It was argued that to link the two
together would put both in jeopardy.  It would put the groups in
conflict and caused divisions to develop.

With the coming of the Civil War, all woman's rights activity stopped.
Susan B. Anthony wanted to call more meetings, but the other woman
wouldn't hear of it in a time of national crisis. They were sure that
when peace was restored the women would be rewarded for their
patriotic contributions. An appreciative government would give them
their right to vote.  Susan thought this was a naive expectation.

Stanton would speak forcefully in words that are amazingly similar to
what many "men" say today in their quest for reform:

"Society, as organized today under the man power, is one grand rape of
womanhood, on the highways, in our jails, prisons, asylums, in our
homes, alike in the world of fashion and of work.  Hence, discord,
despair, violence, .... until the mother of the race be made dictator
in the social realm.  To this end we need every power to lift her up,
and teach mankind that in all God's universe there is nothing so holy
and sacred as womanhood."

-----  Post Civil War & Reconstruction

During Reconstruction, the demand for woman suffrage moved from the
state legislatures to the U.S. Congress. "Up to this hour we have
looked to State action only for the recognition of our rights,"
Anthony explained, "but now ... the whole question of suffrage reverts
back to Congress and the U.S. Constitution." In 1865, she and Stanton
petitioned Congress for reform for the very first time.  Many
feminists now believed that the federal government could become a
major force for increasing democratization and social reform. Stanton
& Anthony wanted "national citizenship" not only because it was more
efficient that state by state action, but also because it seemed more
consistent with their claim that women had the same natural rights as

-----  Reform Progress halts: ignored by Political parties and damaged by the
Supreme Court.

The movement was growing and in the national elections of 1872 Stanton
and Anthony supported the Republicans, who had a plank in their
platform (some called it a sliver), promising "respectful
consideration for women's demands for additional rights."  The
Republican victory of 1872 solidified the party's control and proved
to be the end for this era for reform.  It showed no interests in
furthering women's rights.  In 1875, the US Supreme Court ruled
against the argument that the 14th and 15th Amendments gave women the
right to vote.  That "voting" was a privilege which each state granted
to whom it deemed fit. It took almost 50 years for the effort to
refocus and to achieve Constitutional Amendment.

Susan B. Anthony made a clear argument that the Government does NOT
give us our rights:

"The Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the
constitutions of the several states and the organic laws of the
Territories, all alike propose to protect the people in the exercise
of their God-given rights.  Not one of them pretends to bestow

-----  Organizational Struggles & Death

The movement always suffered from divisions in the ranks. After a
split in 1869 there was the National Woman Suffrage Association
(NWSA), led by Stanton and Anthony, and the American Woman Suffrage
Association (AWSA), led by Lucy Stone and Harry Blackwell.  Susan
B. Anthony sought unification behind a single goal of the national
right to vote.  The groups joined to form the National American Woman
Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1890.  The goal was to ignore some of
their other differences and just focus on the vote.  This would later
cause conflict with Stanton who still sought a "larger" solution to
setting women free.  She would be forced to a peripheral role,
especially because of her increased antipathy toward organized
religion of the day.

Stanton died in 1902 and Anthony four years later -- never gaining the
right to vote.  They were remembered quite differently. Many devoted
followers made Anthony into a "suffrage saint."  Stanton was not
nearly as glorified.  Their common conviction about the importance of
the vote had developed into two quite different approaches.  Stanton's
perspective had been defeated.  Her insistence that suffragists have a
common political program for social reform had been discredited.
Instead, Anthony's belief that no other issue must be allowed to
intrude on the political equality for women had come to predominate.

To unsubscribe from this list at anytime, send email to with the following 1 line in the
BODY of the message (Subject is ignored).

unsubscribe members

Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Thu Jan 02 2003 - 03:12:01 EST