Seneca Falls Convention

The first convention for women’s rights was held at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York, on July 19, 1848. Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized it. Estimates vary from 100 to 300 women attending, which seems astonishing to me, given the times, and the fact that Seneca Falls is quite a ways from any kind of a city. The conference stretched over two days, with the first day supposed to be strictly for women, though there is some indication that men came both days. One of the prominent male supporters of the cause was Frederick Douglass. The abolitionist movement and the women’s rights movements were closely aligned in those days, and the temperance movement was allied as well, as alcoholism was seen as a male problem that affected women. This is close to my own heart, because not only are women’s rights important to me as a woman but also Quakers, of which I am one, were active in the movement. Mott, for instance, was Quaker.

At the conference, a Stanton read the “Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances,” which she had drafted, and had based on the Declaration of Independence. You can find it in pdf format here. It was adopted on the second day of the convention, along with 12 resolutions. Interestingly, the one resolution that nearly didn’t pass was the one advocating a woman’s right to vote. Only after Douglass argued for it did the convention pass it.

Two weeks later a much larger convention happened in Rochester, New York, where I was born and raised, this one with Susan B. Anthony. Although conventions were held annually after that, it was not until 1920 that women were actually granted the right to vote. By the way, women suspended their fight for rights during the Civil War, opting to spend all their energy during those years towards the abolition of slavery.

Quotes by Stanton and Mott

STANTON
The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.

A government is just only when the whole people share equally in its protection and advantages.

The best protection any woman can have … is courage.

To deny political equality is to rob the ostracised of all self-respect; of credit in the market place; of recompense in the world of work…

Because man and woman are the complement of one another, we need woman’s thought in national affairs to make a safe and stable government.

I would have girls regard themselves not as adjectives but as nouns.

Progress is the victory of a new thought over old superstitions.

To refuse political equality is to rob the ostracized of all self-respect.

MOTT
Any great change must expect opposition, because it shakes the very foundation of privilege.

The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation, because in the degradation of women, the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source.

I have no idea of submitting tamely to injustice inflicted either on me or on the slave. I will oppose it with all the moral powers with which I am endowed. I am no advocate of passivity.

The legal theory is, that marriage makes the husband and wife one person, and that person is the husband.

It is time that Christians were judged more by their likeness to Christ than their notions of Christ. Were this sentiment generally admitted we should not see such tenacious adherence to what men deem the opinions and doctrines of Christ while at the same time in every day practise is exhibited anything but a likeness to Christ.

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