Home > Feminism, History, Human Rights, Pick Your Topic Tuesday > Pick Your Topic Tuesday: The First Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls.

Pick Your Topic Tuesday: The First Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Image by cliff1066™ via Flickr

It’s Friday, and time to post this week’s winning topic for Pick Your Topic Tuesday. My thanks go out to Mac at Talk and Politics for his winning suggestion of “my favorite historical event.” Mac is doing a great job with his blog, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I strongly encourage you to do so. He has a great blend of current and past events that he discusses, and each new post is a unique treat to read.

As far as my favorite historical event, well there are too many for me to pick just one. However, as many of you may know, I am a very strong human rights advocate, as well as an outspoken feminist. With that in mind, I thought I would talk about the First Women’s Rights Convention of Seneca Falls in 1848. The convention was put together by suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, and would become the hallmark of how powerful a united movement can become. Without further adieu, I give you

The First Women’s Convention of Seneca Falls.

While conservative women in power such as Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann refuse to acknowledge the rewards of the ongoing Feminist movement, it is unmistakably clear that their entire political careers are the direct result of Feminist pioneers such as Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. While early feminists such as Abigail Adams spoke of equality, it was the women of the 19th century who set the wheels in motion. Palin and Bachmann may be prominent participants in the 2012 Republican Convention, but it was the Seneca Falls First Women’s Convention of 1848 that laid the groundwork of equality for women.

In 1840, Abolitionists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton met while attending the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London England. They became furious when they learned that women were not allowed in the main seating area of the convention, and were relegated to sitting behind a partition in the balcony. Mott and Stanton, as well as many other women in the abolition movement were angered by the fact that the fight for freedom did not include fighting for women’s rights. Eight years later, in July of 1848, while visiting her sister Martha Wright in Waterloo New York, Lucretia Mott would meet with Stanton, Mary Ann McClintock, and Jane Hunt. It was during this meeting that the idea for a convention which would serve to, in Stanton’s words “Discuss the social, civil, and religious condition of rights and women.”

Convening on July 18th and 19th of 1848 in Seneca Falls, 300 people including 40 men attended the convention. While the 6 sessions of the convention featured discussions on law and the role of women in society, the hallmark of the convention was the Declaration of Sentiments, which was penned by Stanton and fashioned after the Declaration of Independence. In this declaration, Stanton stated that” All men and women had been created equal.” The declaration would list the 18 “Injuries and Usurpations on the part of men toward women,” as well as draft 11 resolutions arguing that women had the right of equality on all levels. The most controversial of the resolutions would be the ninth, which called for the women’s right to vote.

The ninth resolution may have been controversial to the delegates at the convention, but it was also the most important to Stanton. In spite of the insistence of Lucretia Mott, Stanton stuck to her guns and left the resolution in the document for vote. Although the resolution was voted down at first, an impassioned speech by none other than Fredrick Douglass on the second day convinced the delegation to allow the resolution to remain in the 11 resolutions that Stanton had drafted. At the end of the convention, 100 people including 38 men signed off on the Declaration of Sentiments, which became the centerpiece of the women’s movement during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Although the convention and resulting declaration was met with ridicule in the press, the groundwork of suffrage was firmly laid. In 1851, Elizabeth Stanton would meet Susan B. Anthony, and together they would become a formidable team fighting for the right to vote, as well as other aspects of equality for women. Unfortunately, neither one would live to see the 19th constitutional amendment pass which granted women the right to vote in 1920. In fact, Charlotte Woodward, a young woman who worked in a glove factory was the only female delegate to the Seneca Falls Convention who lived long enough to place her vote in the 1920 election.

While I was reading up on the Seneca Falls Women’s Convention, I came across an interesting nugget: On June 2nd of 1848 Gerrit Smith was nominated as the Liberty Party Presidential Candidate. One of the main planks of his platform called for the women’s right to vote. During the convention, Lucretia Mott received 5 votes from the delegation to run as Smith’s Vice President. This would be the first time in American politics that a woman’s name would be mentioned for a Federal executive office position.

The First Women’s Convention of Seneca Falls was an historic event that should not be overlooked for its significance. The convention would become the foundation on which the house of suffrage and women’s equality would be built upon. The convention should also serve as a reminder that the fight for equality can be long, slow, and forever ongoing. Although there are women in positions of power in every walk of life, they are still not treated as equals. Women are still underpaid and undervalued in the work place. A majority of men still feel that a woman’s place is in the home. The grip of patriarchy may not have the choke hold it once did, but it still has a fairly strong grip on society. We simply must not allow the Sarah Palins and Michele Bachmanns of the world continue to mock feminism. After all, if it were not for courageous women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott who literally put the convention together at the last minute, the women of today may still be shackled in the chains of patriarchy, with men as their masters.

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  1. June 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Great bit of history. Good research and easy to read.
    To me, these gems are like the “deep cuts” in an album. You know, some of the best stuff that never got heard.


  2. June 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    I’m glad you liked it. I’m enjoying your stuff as well 🙂


  3. carvingoutavoice
    June 3, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Great post! I didn’t know Lucretia Mott was the first woman suggested for vice president. Very cool. I get chills every time I read or see something on this history. Fantastic stuff. In their time, women were considered the property of their father, or husband who was usually chosen for them. Widowhood was the only possibility of freedom they generally had. Divorce existed, but it had to be the husband who did it and usually the woman would lose her children, who were also his property.


    • June 4, 2011 at 9:41 am

      This is all very true. It blows me away that a lot of women in the public eye who are vying for political power refuse to even acknowledge this. If it wasn’t for the 19th and 20th century feminists, they would still be stuck in the kitchen getting their hubbies a beer!


  4. June 4, 2011 at 8:51 am

    A well-researched, impressive piece. Just another example there is more to every story than meets the eye.


    • June 4, 2011 at 9:45 am

      Thank you! I came across another little tidbit during my research that I forgot to include. Henry Stanton, Elizabeth’s husband, refused to take part in the convention. He was a burgeoning politician running for office that year, and he was concerned about being associated with such a radical idea of women’s suffrage. He actually left the area for the two days of the convention.


  5. carvingoutavoice
    June 4, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that women’s liberation was seen as much more radical than the abolition of slavery. He openly took part in that work and essentially it comes down to the same thing; that humans, regardless of sex or race, should have the right to govern their own lives and decisions and live as free people.


  6. carvingoutavoice
    June 4, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I guess what it really comes down to is economics. They saw the black man’s freedom as essential to contributing to the capitalist goals through supply and demand. They work, get paid and buy things. I guess they didn’t see the monetary value in the role of women’s freedoms. So incredibly narrow minded to not see what was so plainly before them; women fit into and fed their precious government just as well, given the chance. So much so that families can now barely manage to survive in a one paycheck household.


  7. June 4, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Great job! And important stuff on many levels. The principles of equal rights are so strong and fundamental for a healthy and fair society. And I suspect in general – that those who suppress have no idea what it feels like. Mere convenience for one is the stolen dignity and freedom for the other. It’s tribal, unfair, counter-productive and deeply unnecessary. Luckily there is progress!

    And thanks for some fresh input!


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