Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an important element of the Women’s Rights Movement, but not many people know of her significance or contributions because she has been overshadowed by her long time associate and friend, Susan B. Anthony. However, I feel that she was a woman of great importance who was the driving force behind the 1848 Convention, played a leadership role in the women’s rights movement for the next fifty years, and in the words of Henry Thomas, “She was the architect and author of the movement’s most important strategies ad documents. ” Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born in 1815 into an affluent family in Johnstown, New York.
Now, while Stanton was growing up, she tried to imitate her brother’s academic achievements due to the fact that her parents, Daniel and Mary Livingston Cady, preferred their sons to their daughters. In trying to copy her male siblings, she got an extraordinary education: she went to Johnstown Academy and studied Greek and mathematics; she learned how to ride and manage a horse; she became a skilled debater; and she attended the Troy Female Seminary in New York (one of the first women s academies to offer an advanced education equal to that of male academies) where she studies logic, physiology, and natural rights philosophy.
However, it wasn’t her education, but watching her father, who was a judge and lawyer, handle his cases, that cause her to become involved in various movements because it was in court with her father that she saw firsthand how women suffered legal discrimination. It was here that she realized that the laws were unfair and resolved to do whatever she could to change them. She used her unique ability to draw from wide-ranging sources in legal areas as well as in political and literary areas.
With her knowledge of literature, he created narratives that produced a variety of emotions ranging from delight to destruction. However, as this was going on, another important even took place. In 1840, Elizabeth married abolitionist organizer and journalist, Henry Stanton. Over the course of their marriage, Elizabeth and Henry had seven children in the next fifteen years, but even with the responsibility of taking care of her children, Stanton found time to do many other things to further the rights of others.
For instance, the very same year that she married her husband, Stanton accompanied her spouse to London to attend the World Abolitionist Convention in June 1840 where she met Lucretia Mott, her close friend and intellectual mentor. Mott and Stanton became allies to fight the crusade for women’s rights because the female delegates attending the convention were denied recognition. They were so humiliated and appalled at the way that they were treated that they were determined to call together a women’s right convention when they went back home.
Finally, eight years late on July 19, 1848, in Seneca Falls, New York, five women met to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women. Stanton acted as the leader and thus, wrote the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments, which included a women’s bill of rights and listed demands for social equality. Nonetheless, it was when Stanton met Susan B. Anthony in 1851 that did a great deal for the advancement of women’s rights. Anthony helped Stanton to develop her intellectual skepticism and activity, and Stanton considered her to be a mentor.
Also, Anthony’s organizing abilities complemented Stanton’s more philosophical focus, but the women’s movement was still within the larger antislavery movement, and when slavery ended, so did the supports from the abolitionist. Stanton and Anthony were outraged at this betrayal and created the independent National Woman Suffrage Association in 1868, and Stanton served as its president for the next 21 years. This organization allowed Stanton to have a substantial impact on American customs, traditions, and laws relating to the rights of women.
Her philosophy was that change could only result after a total self-dependence and self-reliance. She believed that women could actually achieve their actual potential once they were freed from the entrapment of men’s social, moral, and legal traditions. And with this belief and as the president of the National Woman Suffrage Association, she went out and began to advocate numerous issues, which included divorce, abortion, suffrage, work laws, property rights, and education.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton also began publishing Revolution, a women’s rights newspaper on the same year that she formed National Woman Suffrage Association. Then, in 1881, Stanton and Anthony published the first volume of the History of Woman Suffrage, a collection of writings about the struggles of the movements, but it didn’t stop there and two more volumes were published in the next five years. However, there were many organizations that had been formed relating to the rights of women, but they all differed in their opinions and approaches.
Many called for oral reforms in society just like Stanton believed, but they did not feel women’s suffrage was necessary. Nevertheless, both Stanton and Anthony realized that they would need to unite the two major women’s groups to better achieve their goals, and they did this in 1890 forming the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Stanton was elected president for this association as well but her radical stance on religion and more importantly, the Bible, threatened to tear this newly formed coalition apart.
She was a firm believer of separation of church and state. She felt that orthodox religion was the prime oppressor of women and felt it promoted superstition and hostility to women. She believed so strongly in this and upheld her views, even though she began to experience spiritual isolation and a great deal of criticism from many of the clergy, modern day feminists who disagreed with her methods and ideologies, and the general public, leading her to publish The Women’s Bible in 1895, a study of sexism in the Old Testament.
The Women’s Bible consisted of all the texts concerning women and the main purpose of this revision was to expose the contradictions and the traditional teachings and interpretations in regard to women of the time. This work was rejected by many of the more conservative elements in the movement and a storm of protest arose as many of her colleagues condemned her. When she dies in 1902, she was no longer the movement’s leader and was unfortunately, not around to see women’s suffrage in the United States.
Her crusade lasted for over fifty years of her life, as she learned and profited from her mistakes and failures, realizing that everything isn’t perfect. Even though she has been dead for quite some time now, her concerns, ideas, and accomplishments have endured and continue to influence the feminist movement and other movements for progress in the twentieth century.