On July 18, 1848, almost 300 women and men gathered in the Wesleyan Chapel for America's first major women's rights convention. In the mid-19th century, Seneca Falls' and Waterloo's Quaker population brought an intense spirit of radical reform to the area, and the construction of the Wesleyan Chapel in 1843 was the result of a nationwide schism in the Methodist Church over the issue of slavery and abolitionism. When it became apparent to pro-abolition members of the Seneca Falls Methodist Church that national church leaders meant to ignore the slavery issue in favor of national unity, they broke with the church and formed the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Unlike other Protestant churches of the time, the Wesleyan Methodist Church opened its doors free-of-charge to any reform speakers seeking a public forum. After discussing women's rights at the Hunt House in July of 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Mary Ann M'Clintock, Martha Wright, and Jane Hunt placed a notice in the July 16 Seneca Falls newspaper announcing their intention to hold a women's rights convention in the Wesleyan Chapel two days later. Mott expected poor attendance, but on the morning of July 18, 1848, more than 300 participants appeared at the church doors. Elizabeth Cady Stanton opened the proceedings with a brief statement of purpose, then she turned the floor over to Lucretia Mott, who presented a "survey of the degraded condition of women the world over." Stanton then read the Declaration of Sentiments, and revisions were made by the audience. During the second day, the Declaration of Sentiments once again was read and debated, including the Declaration's 11 resolutions. Most of the resolutions passed with unanimous approval, but the 9th resolution which called for the vote for women was strongly debated and barely passed. During the evening session, Stanton, Mott, Mary Ann M'Clintock, Thomas M'Clintock, and Frederick Douglass gave closing speeches, bringing an end to the two-day convention. In the end, 100 people--62 women and 38 men--signed the Declaration of Sentiments. Although the convention garnered negative and patronizing publicity, other women's rights conventions soon followed. In the years afterward, the much debated 9th resolution became the cornerstone of the women's rights movement, and 72 years after the Seneca Falls Convention, the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 finally granted American women the right to vote.
Photograph courtesy of the Women's Rights National Historical Park.
The Wesleyan Chapel site is part of the Women's Rights National Historical Park, and is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Ranger guided tours are available. Call 315-568-2991 or click here for more information.
Home |List of Sites |
Main Map | Seneca Falls & Waterloo Map | Next Site