• First Wave Statue Exhibit

    Women's Rights

    National Historical Park New York

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton

View or print more information about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her life in Seneca Falls here.
 
Image of the statue of Elizabeth Cady Stanton in profile. The statue is in the park visitor center lobby.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton as sculpted by Lloyd Lillie for the park visitor center

Elizabeth Cady Stanton(1815-1902) is believed to be the driving force behind the 1848 Convention, and for the next fifty years played a leadership role in the women's rights movement. Somewhat overshadowed in popular memory by her long time colleague Susan B. Anthony, Stanton was for many years the architect and author of the movement's most important strategies and documents. Though she became increasingly estranged from the mainstream of the movement, particularly near the end of her career, she maintained to the end her long time friendship with Anthony.

Stanton had an early introduction to the reform movements, including encounters as a young woman with fugitive slaves at the home of her cousin Gerrit Smith. It was at Smith's home that she also met her husband Henry Stanton. Soon after their marriage in 1840 they traveled to London, where Henry Stanton was a delegate to the World Anti-Slavery Convention. There she met Lucretia Mott, the Quaker teacher who served in many of the associated Temperance, Anti-Slavery, and Women's Rights organizations with which Stanton is associated. Denied her seat at the convention, as were all the women delegates, Mott discussed with Stanton the need for a convention on women's rights. The plan came to fruition when Mott again encountered Stanton in the summer of 1848 in the home of fellow Quaker Jane Hunt. After a month of missionary work on the Cattaraugus Reservation of the Seneca Nation, James and Lucretia Mott were attending the annual meeting of the Religious Society of Friends at Junius, near Seneca Falls, and staying at nearby Auburn with Lucretia Mott's sister, Martha Coffin Wright.

Stanton, Mott, Wright, Hunt, and Mary Ann M'Clintock made the plan to call the first women's rights convention, initiating the women's rights movement in the United States, and Stanton's role as a leader in that movement. In 1851, Susan B. Anthony was staying at the home of fellow Temperance worker Amelia Bloomer, while attending an anti-slavery meeting in Seneca Falls. Stanton encountered Bloomer and Anthony on the street. She recorded the meeting in her diary as follows:

"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 gentleman 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... "

History records the lasting relationship between these two women as well as the strains that resulted from their different roles and priorities. Unwilling to commit to a vigorous travel schedule until her children were grown, Stanton wrote many of her speeches for delivery by Anthony. As the years wore on the two held closely together, splitting with many other women as well as Gerrit Smith and Frederick Douglass, over the idea that suffrage for black men, after emancipation should take precedence over suffrage for women. Along with Matilda Joslyn Gage, the two led the National Woman Suffrage Association, opposing the concept of "precedence" accepted by the less radical American Woman Suffrage Association.

Almost thirty years after the Seneca Falls Convention, Stanton and Gage authored the Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States, which Anthony presented, uninvited, at the Centennial celebration in Washington in 1876. The Declaration was signed in the Centennial Books of the NWSA by Stanton, Anthony and Gage, as well as many later arrivals to the movement such as Virginia Minor and Lillie Devereux Blake. Also signing the original Declaration were Lucretia Mott, Mary Ann M'Clintock, and Amy Post, all of whom were present at the 1848 Convention.

Later in her career Stanton, like Gage, focused increasingly on social reforms related to women's concerns other than suffrage. The two worked together on Stanton's Woman's Bible a work rejected by many of the more conservative elements in the movement. The two also collaborated with Anthony in the first three volumes of A History of Woman Suffrage, covering the period 1848 to 1877. Though Gage split completely with Anthony over Anthony's successful effort to merge the NWSA with its more conservative counterpart into the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Stanton agreed to serve as President of the combined organization for a brief period. At the end she took to having her resolutions introduced by others, so fully was her leadership rejected by the newer forces, many of whom saw suffrage as a step toward introduction of a conservative religious social agenda that Stanton strongly and openly opposed. The resiliency of the friendship between Stanton and Anthony is illustrated in the photograph of the two at Anthony's home in Rochester late in their lives.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton died in 1902, and like Anthony and Gage, did not live to see women's suffrage in the United States. She is nonetheless regarded as one of the true major forces in the drive toward equal rights for women in the United States and throughout the world. The statue of Stanton, Mott and Anthony housed in the U.S. Capitol was used as the symbol of the American Delegation to the 1995 Peking Conference.

Read Stanton's favorite public speech, Solitude of Self. 1892.

Read Stanton's Address to the Legislature of New York, 1854.

Visit the website for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust for more information.

 
 

Did You Know?

M'Clitnock House, Waterloo, New York. Station on the Underground Railroad.

Did you know that all but one of the five organizers of the First Women's Rights Convention had connections to the Underground Railroad? More...