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Women's Movements

Women's Movements

Elizabeth Cady Stanton in Women's Movements

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) was a leader of the nineteenth-century women's movement, an organizer of the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, and an early advocate of female suffrage. Born into an affluent family (her father was a judge), she was educated at Emma Willard's Troy Female Seminary. She was introduced into reform largely through her maternal cousin Gerrit Smith. In his home she met Henry Stanton, an abolitionist and field agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society, whom she married in 1840.

Accompanying her husband to the 1840 World's Antislavery Convention in London, she witnessed the sponsoring society's refusal to seat female delegates from the United States. As a result, she and Lucretia Mott, one of the excluded delegates, discussed the need for a convention that would address the challenges facing women in contemporary society. In 1848, Cady Stanton and Mott were among the principal planners of the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Cady Stanton drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, modeled closely after the Declaration of Independence, asserting the "self-evident" truth that "all men and women were created equal." The delegates also adopted eleven resolutions, including one declaring it "the duty of women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise."8

In the two decades following the Seneca Falls convention, Cady Stanton worked on behalf of temperance, marriage and divorce reform, abolitionism, and greater protection for women's property rights. Following the Civil War, she joined abolitionists and feminists in founding the American Equal Rights Association, dedicated to winning the vote for black men and all women. Disappointed by the narrow framing and interpretation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, she helped found the National Woman Suffrage Association. In 1878, Stanton drafted the language for a constitutional amendment extending the vote to women. The amendment was introduced into Congress in every session until finally adopted and ratified in 1920.

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