The Anniversary of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Birth

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton, c1880. Wikipedia, public domain.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, c1880. Wikipedia, public domain.

Quick- who is Elizabeth Cady Stanton?

No, she is not a relative of mine. (I wish!)

You may have dozed off during the maybe two minutes of your high school history class that focused on her and the movement which she helped found.

If you are female in America, or African-American (male or female), you owe many of your rights to her tireless work for suffrage and abolition.

If you are male, she helped gain rights for your sister, mother, wife, and daughters, and helped make all persons in our society more equal, which benefits all.

 

Today is the anniversary of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s birth. She was born to Daniel Cady and Margaret Livingston Cady on 12 Nov 1815 in Johnstown, New York. Her father was an attorney and state Supreme Court judge, and Elizabeth was formally educated in a time when few women had that privilege. Despite her father owning slaves, she also was an abolitionist, temperance worker, and a leader of the early women’s rights movement.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the principal author of the “Declaration of Rights and Sentiments,” first presented in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention. Based on the Declaration of Independence, it listed the ways that women did not have equal rights in the United States of America: they were taxed without representation, subject to laws they were unable to have a voice in, etc.- the same as the grievances colonists had with Great Britain around 1776. The Oneida Whig stated later that the convention’s ‘Declaration’ was “the most shocking and unnatural event ever recorded in the history of womanity.”

Elizabeth was different from many in the women’s movement because she addressed other women’s issues, not just suffrage: divorce and custody (men automatically got the children in the few divorces of the time, even if they were bad parents), work and income, property rights, and even birth control. She worked closely with Susan B. Anthony who is now the better known suffragist. They had an equal partnership, however, with Elizabeth writing speeches and Susan delivering them, since she was unmarried and had no children and could travel more easily than Stanton, who had seven children.

So why is a post about Elizabeth Cady Stanton on this blog? Yes, she is one of my heroes, but her work affects all the women in our family who came after. Edith Roberts was in college the year women got the right to vote- I once asked her what she remembered about it, did she go out and exercise her right to suffrage right after it became law, did she also protest and write to get women suffrage? She replied that she didn’t even remember the event, as she was so busy in school and with her sorority. (I was disappointed.)

Also, Edward B. Payne, our McMurray ancestor, was active in the woman’s suffrage movement in Berkeley, California in the 1890s. More about this in a future post.

Women's Suffrage- women are not too emotional… Article in Marion Daily Star (Marion, Ohio), 08 May 1897. Volume XX, Number 143, Page 7, Column 6.
Women’s Suffrage- women are not too emotional… Article in Marion Daily Star (Marion, Ohio), 08 May 1897. Volume XX, Number 143, Page 7, Column 6. NOTE: Women did have the vote in Wyoming in 1897, thus the reference to lunatics there being only men.

Although she married, Elizabeth had the phrase, “I promise to obey” removed from her portion of the vows, later writing, “I obstinately refused to obey one with whom I supposed I was entering into an equal relation.”

Over 70 years after the beginnings of the women’s suffrage movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton died  on 26 Oct 1902 without ever having voted in the United States of America.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Wikipedia article on Elizabeth Cady Stanton: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Cady_Stanton 

2) North Star, July 28, 1848, as quoted in Frederick Douglass on Women’s Rights, Philip S. Foner, ed. New York: Da Capo Press, 1992, pp. 49-51; originally published in 1976, cited in Wikipedia article on ‘Declaration of Sentiments’: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_Sentiments

 

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