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Stanton, Elizabeth - History

Stanton, Elizabeth - History

Social Reformer


Born on November 12, 1815, in Johnstown, New York, Elizabeth Cady studied at the Johnstown Academy and attended Emma Willards Troy (N. Y.) Female Seminary (1830-32). She briefly studied law with her father, but soon became interested in reform, especially the elimination of injustices to women.

In 1840 she married Henry Brewster Stanton, a prominent abolitionist, insisting that the word "obey" would be dropped from the ceremony. And later that year, she attended the World s Anti-Slavery Convention in London; but along with other women delegates, she was denied recognition because of her sex.

With Lucretia C. Mott she organized the first womens-rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848; and this launched the womens-rights movement in the United States. From 1851 she worked closely with Susan B. Anthony; together they remained active for 40 years, planning campaigns, speaking before legislative bodies, and addressing gatherings in various settings. By 1860 New York laws had been amended giving women

joint guardianship of their children, the right to sue in court, and to own real and personal property.

Although a pacifist, Mrs. Stanton felt the Civil War was necessary in order to end slavery and formed the Women‚s Loyal League in 1863 to support the Union. After the war, she returned to the womens suffrage movement, editing and writing militant articles for the Revolution (1868-1870), a womens-rights newspaper.

Chosen first president of the National Women Suffrage Association in 1869, she spent the next several years lobbying for a constitutional amendment. In 1890, after presiding over the association for over 30 years, she was elected first president of the new National American Woman Suffrage Association.

A prolific writer, she produced the first three volumes of History of Woman Suffrage (1881-86) with Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Gage and published an autobiography, Eighty Years and More, in 1898. She died in

New York City on October 26, 1902.

Stanton, Elizabeth - History

Where did Elizabeth Cady Stanton grow up?

Elizabeth Cady was born in Johnstown, New York on November 12, 1815. She had 10 brothers and sisters, however, many of them died during childhood. Only Elizabeth and four of her sisters lived well into adulthood. Her last brother, Eleazar, died when he was 20 years old leaving her mother depressed and her father wishing that Elizabeth was a boy.

Growing up Elizabeth was exposed to the law through her father Daniel. He was a lawyer who also served as a judge and a U.S. Congressman. She learned that the law was not the same for men and women. She learned that only men could vote and that women had few rights under the law. She didn't think this was fair. She thought she was as good as any boy and should be given the same opportunities.

When Elizabeth reached school age she wanted to go to school to learn. Not many women went to school in those days, but her father agreed to send her to school. At school Elizabeth was an excellent student. She won awards and proved that she could do as well or better than most of the boys.

After high school, Elizabeth wanted to go to college. She quickly learned that girls were not allowed into the major universities. She ended up going to a college for girls where she was able to continue her studies.

Abolitionist and Human Rights

Elizabeth began to believe strongly in the rights of all individuals regardless of race or gender. She fell in love with an abolitionist (a person against slavery) named Henry Stanton. They married in 1840. Over the course of their marriage they would have seven children.

Women's Rights Movement

While attending anti-slavery conventions, Elizabeth also met women who felt as strongly about women's rights as she did, women such as Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, and Susan B. Anthony. She believed that women could do little to change their position in life unless they could change the laws. In order to change the laws, they needed the right to vote. The right for women to vote is called women's suffrage. Elizabeth began to work and campaign for women's suffrage. She would spend the rest of her life working on this important cause.

Declaration of Sentiments

In 1850, Elizabeth and several other women held the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth presented an important document called the Declaration of Sentiments. This document was modeled after the Declaration of Independence and said that women and men were created equal and should be treated the same under the law. Many people spoke at the event including the famous abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass.

National Woman Suffrage Association

In 1869, Elizabeth and her good friend Susan B. Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. They believed strongly that women should be given the right to vote. They thought that the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave black men the right to vote, should also include the right for women to vote. Other people thought that if women were included on the amendment it wouldn't pass. Much to her disappointment, when the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified in 1870, it did not include women.

Over the next 30 years of her life, Elizabeth worked hard to improve the rights of women. Although she didn't live long enough to see women gain the right to vote with the Nineteenth Amendment, it was her hard work that paved the way.

About this Collection

The papers of suffragist, reformer, and feminist theorist Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) cover the years 1814 to 1946, with most of the material concentrated between 1840 and 1902. Consisting of approximately 1,000 items (4,164 images), reproduced on five reels of recently digitized microfilm, the collection contains correspondence, speeches, articles, drafts of books, scrapbooks, and printed matter relating to Stanton and the woman's rights movement. Documented are her efforts on behalf of women's legal status and women's suffrage, the abolition of slavery, rights for African Americans following the Civil War, temperance, and other nineteenth-century social reform movements. Highlights of the collection include an official report and contemporary newspaper clippings relating to the historic 1848 convention in Seneca Falls, New York drafts of Stanton's memoirs Eighty Years and More: Reminiscences, 1815-1897 and a draft of her controversial The Woman's Bible, which nearly splintered the suffrage movement when published in 1895.

Like her close collaborator Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), Stanton is one of the best-known women in American history, principally because of her role in the women's suffrage campaign in the nineteenth-century. Although most often identified as a suffragist, Stanton participated in a variety of reform initiatives during her lifetime. Setting her sights on women's emancipation and equality in all arenas—political, economic, religious, and social—she viewed suffrage as an important but not singular goal. Since childhood, she had rebelled against the role assigned to women and chafed at being denied a university education because of her sex. As a young woman, she became involved in the temperance and antislavery movements, through which she met Henry Brewster Stanton (1805-1887), an abolitionist reformer and journalist, whom she married in May 1840. While honeymooning in England, Stanton became outraged when she and other women were barred from a major antislavery convention. The incident later spurred her and Lucretia Mott (1793-1880), a Quaker minister from Pennsylvania and one of the American delegates to the London meeting, to organize in July 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, a women's rights convention, which is considered by many as the beginning of the American woman suffrage movement. It was there that Stanton put forth her daring Declaration of Sentiments, including the then-radical demand for women's voting rights, a goal that would consume the women's movement for more than seventy years.

While leading the suffrage fight, Stanton along the way actively supported dress reform and women's health issues, greater educational and financial opportunities for women, more liberal divorce laws, and stronger women's property laws. She also became an outspoken critic of church authority, as best represented by publication of her controversial The Woman's Bible. A supporter of the temperance movement, though not particularly active in it, she insisted that drunkenness should be a cause for divorce. She maintained that women must have the right to their own wages and must take their rightful place in business and the professions. She believed that "self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice," and that women and men should be equal before the law, in churches, and in society. She saw women's voting rights as basic to all other rights and campaigned for both state suffrage laws as well as a federal constitutional amendment that would secure such rights for women nationally.

The collection elucidates the goals, tactics, and activities of those associated with the woman's rights campaign and depicts both external opposition as well as internal division. The correspondence provides glimpses into Stanton's family life illustrating how she balanced her family responsibilities with the demands placed on her as a leader in the movement. Her speeches and writings document in detail her stand on woman's rights and her concern for other contemporary social issues.

Stanton's papers were acquired by the Library of Congress chiefly as a gift from Susan B. Anthony in 1903 and from Stanton's daughter, Harriot Stanton Blatch, in 1927-1928. Smaller accessions of material were acquired by gift and purchase through 1957. Those papers donated by Blatch and originally arranged in scrapbooks were dismantled and interfiled with the other papers that make up the collection. Blatch's notes on various items have been retained and are filed with the relevant manuscripts. The scrapbooks which were prepared by Susan B. Anthony (see Miscellany) have been kept as units except for some original manuscript material they contained. This material was removed and interfiled in the papers with identifying notes.

Prominent correspondents represented in the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers include Susan B. Anthony, Daniel Cady, W. H. Channing, Lydia Maria Francis Child, Frances Power Cobbe, Paulina W. Davis, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Julia Ward Howe, Lucretia Mott, Emmeline Pankhurst, Wendell Phillips, Elizabeth E. Pike, Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt, John Osborne Sargent, Elizabeth Oakes Prince Smith, Gerrit Smith, Henry B. Stanton, Lucy Stone, John Swinton, Theodore Tilton, Thurlow Weed, and John Greenleaf Whittier.

A finding aid (PDF and HTML) to the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers is available online with links to the digital content on this site.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady

Introduction: Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a very prominent proponent of a woman’s legal and social equality during the nineteenth century. In 1848, she and others organized the first national woman’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. She co-authored that meeting’s Declaration of Sentiments, a document modeled on the Declaration of Independence, and introduced the most radical demand: for womans suffrage. In retirement, Stanton produced three volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage (1881-85) with Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage. In this work, published several decades before women won the right to vote, the authors documented the individual and local activism that built and sustained a movement for women’s suffrage.

Biography: Elizabeth Cady was born in Johnstown, New York, November 12, 1815. Her parents, Margaret (Nee) Livingston and Daniel Cady were among the town’s most prominent citizens. Her father, Daniel Cady, was a well-known lawyer who had served in Congress, in the New York state legislature and as a judge on the New York state Supreme Court. Her parents had eleven children, most of who did not survive to adulthood. Eleazar Cady, their only son to survive, died when he was twenty, leaving them only four daughters.

Elizabeth Cady studied at the Johnstown Academy and at Emma Willard’s Troy Female Seminary. She also acquired a considerable informal legal education from her father, who trained many of New York’s lawyers. As the daughter of a judge, she was exposed early to the legal barriers to women’s equality. For example, she heard her father tell abused women that they had no legal alternative but to endure mistreatment by their husbands and fathers. She became especially outraged learning that the rights of husbands gave them control over their wives’ property.

Woman’s Rights: In 1840 Elizabeth Cady married the antislavery orator Henry B. Stanton. Her feminist side was displayed at the wedding ceremony when she insisted (and Stanton agreed) that she would not give the wife’s traditional promise to “obey” her husband. She also opted to keep her maiden name as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, rather than going by the name of Mrs. Henry B. Stanton, an unusual decision for the times.

Her marriage to Henry Stanton introduced her to the most advanced circles of reform as well as to motherhood and domestic life. In 1840 she traveled with her husband to London to attend the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention. An active abolitionist herself, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was outraged when the organizers of the Convention denied official standing to women delegates, including Lucretia Mott who was there with her husband. From this experience, the two women vowed to work for more equal rights for women.

Henry Stanton sympathized with his wife’s ambitions for a wider role in the world however, he was not wealthy, and, for the most part, she remained home raising her children. Between 1842 and 1859 Elizabeth Cady gave birth to seven children. Nevertheless, she was able to do some writing and speaking for the feminist cause. In 1848 she and Lucretia Mott called for and organized America’s first woman’s rights convention to be held in Seneca Falls, New York, where the Stanton’s lived.

Stanton co-authored that meeting’s Declaration of Sentiments, a document modeled on the Declaration of Independence. 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 participants to approve a resolution calling for women’s suffrage, or women’s right to vote.

Stanton met Susan B. Anthony in 1851, and their remarkable collaboration began at once. As a single woman Anthony was free to travel and earn her living from her reform work, providing Stanton with more active ways to educate and agitate for her reforms. Anthony, it turned out, was also more skillful than Stanton at organizing people to carry out their shared ideas. After the Civil War, when Stanton felt free to travel, she became one of the best-known women in the United States. Stanton served as president of the National Woman Suffrage Association (1869–90) and of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (1890–92). With Anthony as publisher she and Parker Pillsbury edited (1868–70) the Revolution, a militant feminist magazine.

Elizabeth Stanton was a brilliant orator and an able journalist, and as a writer and lecturer she strove for legal, political, and industrial equality of women and for liberal divorce laws. She spoke on topics like maternity, the woman’s crusade against liquor, child rearing, and divorce law, as well as constitutional questions and presidential campaigns. Thriving on controversy, she championed notorious victims of the double standard like Abby McFarland Richardson and Laura Fair. While she entertained her audiences, she challenged them to examine how inequality had distorted American society and consider how equality might be achieved.

The Power of Their Friendship: Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton by Harriot Stanton Blatch, the

daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

In May 1851, on a street corner in Seneca Falls, NY, Susan B. Anthony first met Elizabeth Cady Stanton. A few years later, Stanton wrote in a journal:

“How well I remember the day! George Thompson and William Lloyd Garrison having announced an anti-slavery meeting in Seneca Falls, Miss Anthony came to attend it. These gentlemen were my guests. Walking home after the adjournment, we met Mrs. Bloomer and Miss Anthony, on the corner of the street, waiting to greet us.

There she stood, with her good earnest face and genial smile, dressed in gray delaine, hat and all the same color, relieved with pale blue ribbons, the perfection of neatness and sobriety. I liked her thoroughly, and why I did not at once invite her home with me to dinner I do not know . . .”

So began the famous friendship of the women who changed our lives.

When Stanton and Anthony met, no woman could be a licensed doctor or lawyer—she couldn’t even go to college. If a woman earned money, she had to pay taxes but she couldn’t vote. Slavery was still legal. A husband could hit his wife with abandon and put her away in an institution.

Anthony and Stanton inspired each other to fight for change. They were abolitionists, temperance activists, and, of course, tireless champions for women’s rights and suffrage. Unmarried and without children of her own, Anthony became “Aunt Susan” to Stanton’s seven boys and girls. She stirred soup pots and cleaned banged knees to give Stanton time to write speeches, petitions and leaflets. When Stanton couldn’t leave home to help rally the troops, Anthony went, thinking of her friend and finding extra power in her words. (Source: Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership)

By the 1880s Stanton had tired of travel and organizational leadership. Already sixty-five years old, she became more sedentary and focused on her writing, producing one of her greatest legacies, three volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage (1881-85) with Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage. In this work, published several decades before women won the right to vote, the authors documented the individual and local activism that built and sustained a movement for woman suffrage.

Stanton died in October 1902 in an apartment in New York City that she shared with two of her grown children.

Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY: www.rochester.edu/sba/

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-110212)

Additional Resources:
Banner, Lois W. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, A Radical for Women’s Rights. Boston: Little, Brown, c1980.

Griffith, Elisabeth. In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.

Dubois, Ellen Carol, editor. The Elizabeth Cady Stanton-Susan B. Anthony Reader: Correspondence, Writings, Speeches. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1992.

Stanton editor with Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage. History of Woman Suffrage. Rochester, NY: Susan B. Anthony: Charles Mann, 1881-1922. Rochester, NY. National American Woman Suffrage Association.

9 Things You May Not Know About Elizabeth Cady Stanton

1. Stanton’s passion for women’s rights was forged during childhood.
Stanton was the eighth of 11 children born to Margaret Livingston and Daniel Cady, a respected lawyer, judge and congressman. A precocious child, she spent much of her girlhood observing the goings on at her father’s law office, where she was disgusted to learn of the many inequitable laws restricting women’s freedom and ability to inherit property. She even schemed to snip the offending passages out of her father’s law books in the hope of invalidating them. While he would later disapprove of her activism, Judge Cady initially encouraged his daughter by loaning her law books and explaining that objectionable statutes could be overturned by public appeals to the government. “Thus was the future object of my life foreshadowed and my duty plainly outlined,” Stanton later wrote.

2. She got her start as an activist in the abolitionist movement.
In 1839, Elizabeth Cady met and fell in love with an abolitionist lecturer and journalist named Henry Stanton. The two were married a year later𠅎lizabeth insisted on having the word “obey” removed from their wedding vows𠅊nd went on to settle in Boston, where they became active in the anti-slavery cause and rubbed elbows with the likes of Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. Along with providing a blueprint for her later social activism, Stanton’s experiences in the abolitionist movement helped spark her involvement in women’s rights. A key incident came at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, where women delegates were unfairly excluded from the proceedings and banished to a visitors’ gallery. Stung by the hypocrisy of their male counterparts, Stanton and fellow abolitionist Lucretia Mott resolved to begin a political crusade on behalf of their gender. They would remain allies until Mott’s death in 1880.

Lucretia Mott (Credit: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery)

3. Stanton organized the first women’s rights convention.
While living in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848, Stanton joined with Lucretia Mott and others in convening 300 people for a convention “to discuss the social, civil and religious conditions and rights of Woman.” Stanton took center stage with a reading of her �laration of Sentiments,” a rewriting of the Declaration of Independence that proclaimed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” The document was accompanied by a series of resolutions to be ratified by those in attendance. Much to the chagrin of her fellow organizers, who feared they would be ridiculed, Stanton insisted on including a measure supporting women’s right to vote. The resolution passed after considerable debate, forever changing the direction of the movement and establishing Stanton as one of the most provocative thinkers on the subject of women’s rights.

4. She wrote many of Susan B. Anthony’s speeches.
Stanton gave birth to seven children between 1842 and 1859, but while she continued to write from the confines of her home, her duties as a wife and mother often prevented her from taking an active role in the women’s rights movement. The self-described �ged lioness” finally found a vehicle for her philosophy in 1851, when she met the Massachusetts-born Quaker and reformer Susan B. Anthony. The two women struck up a lifelong friendship, and the unmarried Anthony later traveled the country delivering speeches that Stanton had composed in between bathing her kids and cooking meals. Anthony sometimes even babysat the Stanton brood to give her friend time to work. Stanton returned to the road after her children were grown, but Anthony continued to serve as the face of the women’s rights movement for the rest of their lives. “I forged the thunderbolts and she fired them,” Stanton later said.

Elizabeth Cady Stantion and Susan B. Anthony (Credit: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery)

5. Stanton was a critic of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.
Stanton strongly supported the abolition of slavery, but she and Anthony courted controversy during Reconstruction by opposing the 14th and 15th Amendments, which enshrined black voting rights in the Constitution. Their objections centered on the use of the phrase “male citizens” in the text of the 14th Amendment. Rather than risk a permanent setback in their own fight for the vote, the pair urged their fellow abolitionists to hold out for an amendment that included both men and women of all races. Stanton alienated many former allies by resorting to controversial arguments, once saying that it was better for a black woman “to be the slave of an educated white man, than of a degraded, ignorant black one.” Her pleas failed to stop either amendment, and by 1869, the debate had splintered the women’s rights movement into two rival factions. The groups wouldn’t be reunited until 1890, when they merged to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association with Stanton as its first president.

6. She was the first woman to run for Congress.
Though barred from voting, Stanton knew there was no law preventing her from taking national office if elected. With this in mind, she announced in 1866 that she was running for a Congressional seat in New York. “I have no political antecedents to recommend me to your support,” she wrote in a letter announcing her candidacy, 𠇋ut my creed is free speech, free press, free men, and free trade—the cardinal points of democracy.” Stanton went on to receive a total of 24 votes—some of the first ever cast for a female politician.

Credit: Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

7. Stanton’s radical ideas earned her a public rebuke from the women’s rights movement.
Stanton made a career out of pushing the envelope, but her ideas were occasionally too revolutionary even for her fellow activists. She caused a scandal by calling for more liberal divorce laws at an 1860 women’s rights convention, and later shocked many suffragists by embracing a brand of feminism that advocated everything from equitable wage laws to women’s rights to serve on juries and withhold sex from their husbands. By far the biggest controversy unfolded in 1895, when the octogenarian reformer published the first volume of “The Woman’s Bible,” a scathing examination of the role organized religion played in denying women their rights. The book was as instant bestseller, but it drew harsh criticism from Christian members of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Ignoring protests from Susan B. Anthony, the Association later voted to formally denounce the book and distance itself from its author. Stanton would remain an outsider in the suffrage movement for the rest of her life.

8. She tried to donate her brain to science.
In 1887, fellow women’s rights activist Helen Gardener asked Stanton to will her brain to Cornell University for postmortem preservation and study. At the time, there were widespread claims that the shape and size of men’s brains made them naturally smarter than women, and Gardener hoped that an examination of Stanton’s grey matter would disprove them once and for all. Never one to doubt her own intelligence, Stanton approved a �quest of Brain to Cornell University,” but following her death in 1902, her children refused to honor the agreement. Undeterred, Gardener later donated her own brain to science after her death in 1925. It remains in the Cornell collection to this day.

How Early Suffragists Left Black Women Out of Their Fight

In the long battle for women&aposs suffrage, and the passage of theꀙth Amendment, some leading activists prioritized white women’s suffrage over voting rights for all women.

Two of the most prominent women&aposs suffragists, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, were at one time part of the American Equal Rights Association (AERA), a group they formed with Frederick Douglass and other activists in 1866. The organization’s goal was to win voting rights 𠇏or both women and African Americans,” says Lisa Tetrault, a history professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

“There’s tension from the very beginning over the priority of those two demands,” she says. 𠇋lack women fall out of this equation.”

Suffragist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, circa 1898.

During the AERA’s founding convention, Black suffragist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper addressed how this framing was unhelpful for her and other Black women. “[Harriet Tubman], whose courage and bravery won a recognition from our army and from every Black man in the land, is excluded from every thoroughfare of travel,” Harper said. “Talk of giving women the ballot-box? Go on.”

After only three years, the AERA dissolved over heated fights about whether to support theꀕth Amendment, with which Black men won the right to vote. (In the South, this victory would be short-lived.) At a pivotal convention in May 1869, Douglass argued that the AERA should support the amendment while continuing to fight for women’s suffrage. Stanton not only disagreed, she gave an address filed with racist stereotypes about the male immigrants and formerly enslaved men whom the amendment would enfranchise.

“Think of Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung, who do not know the difference between a monarchy and a republic, who cannot read the Declaration of Independence or Webster’s spelling book, making laws for…Susan B. Anthony,” she said at the convention. “[The amendment] creates an antagonism everywhere between educated, refined women and the lower orders of men, especially in the South.”

Both Douglass and Stanton had previously attended the Seneca Falls਌onvention for women’s rights in 1848. According to Tetrault, “what’s particularly painful was that Douglass had been the one at Seneca Falls who stood up and defended women’s right to vote. And then when it comes to the 15th Amendment, Stanton refuses to reciprocate.”

The disagreements at that convention led not only to the dissolution of AERA, but a split in the women’s suffrage movement between those who supported the 15th Amendment and those who did not. Stanton and Anthony joined the faction that did not and after the amendment passed, many of the suffragists on that side pandered to white southerners by arguing that that if white women could vote, they could drown out the Black male vote.

Anthony also sought to distance her work from Douglass, who continued to support women’s suffrage for the rest of his life. During an 1890s suffrage meeting in Atlanta, she asked him not to appear onstage with white women because it would seem inappropriate. However, these racist strategies ultimately proved ineffective because southern white men were already preventing Black men from voting with discriminatory poll taxes, tests and lynching.

Both Anthony and Stanton died more than a decade before the 19th Amendment passed. And although their work was instrumental in making that passage possible, they did not work to prioritize making voting rights accessible to all women. In 1920, Black women in the south and many Latinas in the southwest were still barred from voting because of racist voting restrictions. And when they tried to reach out to the main suffrage organizations at the time, they were ignored.

“They say basically, ‘Help us, we still can’t vote,’” Tetrault explains. 𠇊nd those organizations basically say, ‘That’s a race question, it doesn’t concern us.’”


Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, leaders of National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), initiated the project of writing a history of the women's suffrage movement in 1876. The project dominated their lives for much of the next decade, although Anthony in particular also maintained a busy schedule of lecturing and other women's suffrage activities. Originally envisioned as a modest publication that would take only four months to write, [1] it evolved into a work of more than 5700 pages written over a period of 41 years. It was completed in 1922, long after the deaths of Stanton and Anthony in 1902 and 1906 respectively.

In the introduction the authors wrote: "We hope the contribution we have made may enable some other hand in the future to write a more complete history of 'the most momentous reform that has yet been launched on the world—the first organized protest against the injustice which has brooded over the character and destiny of one-half the human race.'" [2] The first volume is dedicated to the memory of pioneering women in the movement, with Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), prominently listed first.

The first three volumes, which cover the history of the movement from its beginnings to 1885, were written and edited by Stanton, Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage. Volume 1 (1848–1861) appeared in 1881, Volume 2 (1861–1876) in 1882 and Volume 3 (1876–1885) in 1886. [3] Some early chapters first appeared in Gage's newspaper, The National Citizen and Ballot Box. [4]

Anthony had for years saved letters, newspapers clippings, and similar materials of historical value to the women's suffrage movement. In 1876 she shipped several trunks and boxes of these materials to the Stanton house in New Jersey and moved into that household herself to begin working on the project with Stanton. [5] Anthony hated this type of work. In her letters, she said the project "makes me feel growly all the time. No warhorse ever panted for the rush of battle more than I for outside work. I love to make history but hate to write it." [6] The work inevitably led to disagreements. Stanton's daughter Margaret reported that "Sometimes these disputes run so high that down go the pens, one sails out of one door and one out of the other, walking in opposite directions around the estate, and just as I have made up my mind that this beautiful friendship of forty years has at last terminated, I see them walking down the hill, arm in arm." [7]

When Stanton was ill for several months in 1881, her daughter Harriet completed her editorial work for volume 2. Dismayed to learn that Anthony and Stanton had no plan for covering the history of the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), a rival to their NWSA, Harriet Stanton also wrote that 107-page chapter herself with information gathered primarily from the Woman's Journal, a periodical published by the AWSA. [8] [9]

According to Ellen Carol DuBois, a historian of the women's movement, "The initial volumes are very broadly conceived, a combination of Stanton's broad philosophical range, Anthony's organizational energies and Gage's historical sensibilities." [10] Anthony was the business manager. Stanton wrote much of the text, providing it with her distinct historical interpretation. Gage wrote several historical essays, including a long one that critically assesses Christianity's attitude toward women throughout history. [10] Gage also provided a significant number of historical documents to the project and was adept at tracking down additional documentation in libraries. [11]

In addition to chronicling the movement's activities, the initial volumes include reminiscences of movement leaders and analyses of the historical causes of the condition of women. They also contain a variety of primary materials, including letters, newspaper clippings, speeches, court transcripts and decisions, and conference reports. Volume three includes essays by local women's rights activists who provided details about the history of the movement at the state level. At Anthony's insistence, the volumes were indexed by a professional indexer and include many expensive steel engravings of women's rights leaders. [12]

A bequest of $24,000 from Eliza Jackson Eddy to Anthony in 1885 provided financial assistance for the completion of these volumes. [13] [14] Recognizing that there was little chance of the project showing a profit, Anthony paid Stanton and Gage for their shares of the rights to the books. She issued Volume 3 in 1886, listing herself as publisher. She also bought the plates of Volumes 1 and 2, which had already been published, from Fowler and Wells, the publisher, and reprinted them in 1887, again listing herself as publisher. Anthony gave away over 1000 copies at her own expense, mailing them to political leaders and libraries in the U.S. and Europe. Publishing the first three volumes cost Anthony about $20,000. [15]

Volume 4, which covers the period from 1883 to 1900, was published by Anthony in 1902, when she was 82 years old. Its editors are listed as Anthony and her younger protégé Ida Husted Harper, but Harper did most of the work." [16] (Anthony also chose Harper to write her biography.) In an indication of the increased acceptance of the women's suffrage movement, Harvard University sent in an order for Volume 4. Less than twenty years earlier, when Anthony sent the school free copies of the first three volumes, Harvard had declined the gift and returned the books. [17]

Publishing the volumes herself presented a variety of problems for Anthony, including finding space for the inventory. She was forced to limit the large number of books she was storing in the attic of the house she shared with sister because the weight was threatening to collapse the structure. [18]

Volumes 5 and 6 were published in 1922 by the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), long after Anthony's death in 1906. Written edited by Harper, they are a pair of volumes that cover different aspects of the period from 1900 to 1920, the year that the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. That amendment, popularly known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, prevents the denial of voting rights on the basis of sex. [19]

The last three volumes include detailed information about the NAWSA, documenting its conventions, officers, committee reports and activities on both a national and state-by-state basis. The NAWSA was formed in 1890 by a merger of the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association. The former was led by Anthony and Stanton, while the latter was for twenty years its rival under the leadership of Lucy Stone. Anthony was the dominant figure in the merged organization. [20] The last three volumes avoid discussion of conflicts within the women's movement during the period they cover. On the contrary, the narrative has a tone of the inevitability of the movement's victory under the leadership of a few talented leaders. [21]

In her will, Anthony bequeathed the plates for the History of Woman Suffrage together with the existing inventory to the National American Woman Suffrage Association. [22]

In 1978 Mari Jo Buhle and Paul Buhle condensed the most important parts of the massive History of Woman Suffrage into The Concise History of Woman Suffrage and published it as a single volume of fewer than 500 pages.

The History of Woman Suffrage provides only limited coverage to groups and individuals who competed with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for leadership of the women's suffrage movement. It only partially portrays the role of Lucy Stone, a pioneering women's rights advocate and a leader of the AWSA, a rival to the NWSA led by Stanton and Anthony. Stanton urged Stone to assist with the history project by writing an account of her own role in the movement, but Stone refused, saying the project should be left to a later generation because none of the leaders of the two rival groups would be able to write an impartial history. Stone accordingly provided Stanton with only minimal information about her activities and asked Stanton not to write a biographical sketch of her for inclusion in the history. [23] [24] A 107-page chapter on the history of the AWSA was included, however, compiled by Stanton's daughter Harriot Stanton Blatch in 1882. [25] The History of Woman Suffrage provides only minimal coverage of the activities of the militant National Woman's Party, founded in 1913 by Alice Paul and other activists who were formerly members of the NAWSA. [26]

According to historian Ellen Carol DuBois, the History of Woman Suffrage established for several decades the consensus view of the history of the women's movement, a "frozen account of the past, a history characterized by celebration, inevitability and canonization". [27] Historian and biographer Lori D. Ginzberg said, "In that story, Stanton alone articulated the demand for woman suffrage, and Anthony led the charge there was only one major organization (theirs) and the differences of principle that led to the division brooked no debate." [28] Historian Lisa Tetrault said that Stanton and Anthony mapped a single, accessible narrative onto what had in fact been "a sprawling, multifaceted campaign". [29] Tetrault said they placed themselves and their allies at the center of the story and minimized or ignored the roles of Stone and others who did not fit into their narrative. [30] Scholarly research into women's history began to break out of this framework with the publication of Eleanor Flexner's Century of Struggle in 1959. [31]

In Woman Suffrage and Women's Rights, historian Ellen Carol DuBois said "There is nothing in the annals of American reform quite like History of Woman Suffrage, a prolonged, deliberate effort on the part of activists to ensure their place in the historical record." [32] The Encyclopedia of Women's History in America described the History of Woman Suffrage as "the fundamental primary source for the women's suffrage campaign". [33] In Elizabeth Cady Stanton: an American Life, Lori D. Ginzberg similarly described it as "the major, if not the definitive, collection of primary source materials on the nineteenth-century movement." [28] Referring to the several volumes of the History, Tetrault said, "More than 125 years after their publication, they remain an indispensable source, having stood for much of that time as the richest repository of published, accessible documentary evidence of nineteenth century suffrage movements." [34]

The History of Woman Suffrage contains more than 80 images of women activists, including these images of its four main contributors: [35]

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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 Grimk é 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 [1893]). 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.

12 Facts About Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) was never able to cast a vote legally, though she helped secure that right for women across America. As the philosopher of the women’s rights movement in 19th-century America, she expressed what she felt regardless of what others might think. Read on for more facts about one of the most important women in history.


Cady Stanton’s father, Daniel Cady, served in Congress and the New York State Assembly, and was a New York Supreme Court judge. He and his wife Margaret had 11 children five daughters, including Elizabeth, and one son would survive to adulthood. When her brother Eleazar died at age 20, Elizabeth’s father allegedly said to her, “Oh my daughter, I wish you were a boy!”

That may have been her father’s way of lamenting the hardships she would suffer as a woman, but Elizabeth responded by throwing herself into studying Greek, chess, and horse riding, vowing “to make her father happy by being all a son could have been,” Lori D. Ginzberg writes in Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life. Daniel Cady did encourage his bright and self-confident daughter when she was upset that laws could not help one of his female clients: “When you are grown up, and able to prepare a speech, you must go down to Albany and talk to the legislators,” he told her. “If you can persuade them to pass new laws, the old ones will be a dead letter.”


Even as a young person, Elizabeth bristled against her family’s Presbyterian beliefs. In 1831, as a required part of her lessons at the Troy Female Seminary, she attended a revival at which noted evangelist Charles Grandison Finney spoke. She found his ideas about sin so alarming that she had to take time off from school to recover. Ultimately, she rejected organized Christianity’s dependence on fear, and later came to view religion as at odds with her work in the feminist movement.


In 1840, Elizabeth married Henry Stanton, a prominent abolitionist who was active in the New York Anti-Slavery Society. After the wedding, the new couple headed to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, where Henry was a delegate and Elizabeth was forced with other female attendees into the back of the lecture hall [PDF]. There she met feminist Lucretia Mott, who shared her support for women’s and African Americans' rights.


When you think of an important tea party, the Boston event probably springs to mind—but there was at least one other tea-related confab that was just as historic.

On July 9, 1848, Cady Stanton and three other women—Lucretia Mott, her sister Martha Wright, and Mary Ann McClintock—were invited to the Waterloo, New York home of Jane Hunt, a wealthy Quaker dedicated to social reform. During the gathering, they discussed how women weren’t allowed to vote or own property and why the Quaker religion avoided getting involved with women’s rights and the anti-slavery movement. The decision to create an organized meeting to advocate women’s equality was decided right then and there, though who came up with the idea is not known.


Cady Stanton, Mott, and their colleagues announced “a Convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman.” Ten days after the tea party, more than 300 people attended the event (also known as the Seneca Falls convention). The first day, July 19, was planned as an all-women discussion, and July 20 was open to the public.

Stanton wrote and read a “Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances” for the occasion, a discourse based on the Declaration of Independence describing the oppression of women and the rights to which they were entitled. It began with these famous lines: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (The Declaration of Independence had almost identical wording except for the “and women” part.) Sixty-eight women and 32 men signed the declaration. Seneca Falls launched annual conventions to advocate women’s rights, and was the start of the long battle that eventually earned women the right to vote.


Library of Congress // No Known Restrictions on Publication

Cady Stanton met Susan B. Anthony in 1851 and they quickly became an unstoppable pair. In their shared goal of achieving women’s equality, Anthony handled the campaigning and speeches, while Cady Stanton did the lion’s share of the writing from her home in Seneca Falls. While Anthony objected to Cady Stanton allowing her role as a mother to interfere with her reform work, she also helped her take care of the seven Stanton children. Cady Stanton said of Anthony:

“In the division of labor we exactly complemented each other. In writing we did better work than either could alone. While she is slow and analytical in composition, I am rapid and synthetic. I am the better writer, she the better critic. She supplies the facts and statistics, I the philosophy and rhetoric, and, together, we have made arguments that have stood unshaken through the storms of long years—arguments that no one has answered. Our speeches may be considered the united product of our two brains."

Together, they formed the anti-slavery Women’s Loyal National League and published the first three of six volumes of History of Woman Suffrage.


Cady Stanton and Anthony also founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869 in response to the proposed 15th Amendment. According to Ginzberg, feminists faced a choice after the Civil War, when Congress debated suffrage for emancipated slaves. “There was a battle among abolitionists—of which Stanton counted herself—between having a 15th Amendment that gave black men the vote or holding out for a suffrage amendment that granted the vote to all adult Americans,” Ginzberg told NPR. “Stanton and her friend Susan B. Anthony stood on what they claimed was the highest moral ground by demanding universal human rights for all and—historians have argued about this ever since—not being willing to sacrifice women's rights for the politically expedient challenge of gaining rights for black men.” The 15th Amendment, giving men the right to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” was ratified in 1870. Women did not end up achieving the franchise until 1920.


Women could run for public office even though they couldn’t vote, a situation that Cady Stanton sought to challenge. She ran for the U.S. House of Representatives—the first woman to do so—as an independent representing New York in 1866. She knew that she was treading new ground when she announced she was running. “I have no political antecedents to recommend me to your support, but my creed is free speech, free press, free men, and free trade—the cardinal points of democracy,” she explained in a letter. She received only 24 votes of the 12,000 cast, perhaps a reflection of the fact that no women could vote—but her audacious campaign likely inspired others. Six years later Victoria Woodhull became the first female candidate for president. It wasn’t until 1916 that a woman, Rep. Jeannette Rankin of Montana, was elected to Congress.


Her 1895 book The Woman’s Bible, which criticized the ways religion portrayed women as less than men, drove a wedge between Stanton and the women’s movement. Cady Stanton argued that the Bible taught “the subjection and degradation of woman” and that equality demanded a revision of its lessons. Anthony felt it was more important to welcome people of all religious beliefs into the fight for suffrage. Thanks to the controversy, the book became a bestseller.


As the 1970s feminist slogan goes, “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” In Cady Stanton’s day, a bike made it so that a woman wouldn’t need a man, at least when it came to transportation. Biking had become popular by the 1890s, and was strongly associated with the modern woman of the latter part of the 19th century, liberated from stuffy social and marital expectations. At 80, Stanton told The American Wheelman magazine that “the bicycle will inspire women with more courage, self-respect [and] self-reliance,” eventually leading to women’s suffrage. Both she and Susan B. Anthony have been credited with saying “woman is riding to suffrage on the bicycle.” They could see beyond the convenience of getting from point A to point B: Bikes symbolized a new freedom for women.


Cady Stanton died in 1902, just before turning 87. Susan B. Anthony was heartsick. “I am too crushed to speak,” she told The New York Times’s obituary writer.

But Cady Stanton had tried to ensure that she would still help women’s causes after her own death. Her friend Helen Gardener, a fellow suffragist, had convinced her to donate her brain to Cornell University so scientists would have an eminent female brain to compare with those of eminent men. Stanton had told her family of her plan, and Gardener announced her wishes publicly. Gardener said Cady Stanton “felt that a brain like hers would be useful for all time in the record it would give the world, for the first time—the scientific record of a thinker among women,” Kimberly A. Hamlin writes in From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women’s Rights in Gilded Age America. Cady Stanton’s family, however, refused to believe she had agreed to the plan, and the brain was buried with the rest of her in the Bronx’s Woodlawn Cemetery.


The 19th Amendment, which finally gave women the right to vote, celebrates its centennial in 2020. To commemorate the anniversary, a new $10 bill will be issued with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Alice Paul on the back—the first time in more than 100 years that a female portrait has been featured on paper money. (Alexander Hamilton will remain on the front.) You can also expect to see Cady Stanton and Anthony memorialized in a bronze statue in New York City’s Central Park that will be known as the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Woman Suffrage Movement Monument. Amazingly, the suffrage pioneers are the first two women to be honored with statues in Central Park, and only the fourth and fifth American women represented by public statues in any NYC park.

Watch the video: Biography Brief: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (December 2021).