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Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Women's Rights Facts & Accomplishments

Instructor: Tiffany Wayne
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of most important women's rights activists of the 1800s. Read about her key contributions in the struggle for American women's right to vote, own property and have equality in marriage.

Early Years and Abolitionism

Elizabeth Cady was the daughter of a New York Congressman and judge. Born in 1815, young Elizabeth received a formal education at a time when few women had such opportunities. At home she read in her father's law library and learned that women, especially married women, had few legal rights, even to their own children and property.

Like many women's rights activists of the early 1800s, Elizabeth Cady Stanton first became involved in reform efforts through the anti-slavery or abolitionist movement. In the spring of 1840, soon after her marriage to abolitionist, journalist, and lawyer Henry Stanton, Elizabeth first encountered the limitations for women reformers within the abolitionist community.

On their honeymoon, the Stantons traveled as American delegates to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England. But Elizabeth and the other women in attendance, including friend Lucretia Mott, were not allowed to sit on the floor of the convention with the male delegates, nor were they allowed to speak and participate in the proceedings. Stanton and Mott vowed to address the status of women when they returned to the United States.

Seneca Falls

It was not until the summer of 1848, however, that they finally organized a women's rights convention to meet in Stanton's town of Seneca Falls, New York. Stanton drafted a list of grievances and resolutions which she then read at the convention. The Declaration of Sentiments was modeled explicitly on the Declaration of Independence which, in Stanton's view, had given American men their political rights some 70 years earlier. The women's Declaration of Sentiments stated, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.'

Stanton's Declaration of Sentiments was the first formal statement by American women demanding rights based on their sex. The document replaced the Declaration of Independence's references to the tyranny of King George with 'a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman.' It included such radical demands as women's right to their own property and wages, the right to higher education and a profession, and changes to laws which gave men the power in divorce and custody cases. Most radical of all was the charge that women, 'one-half the people of this country,' were denied their 'inalienable right to the elective franchise,' or the vote.

One hundred individuals signed in support of the Declaration of Sentiments--68 women and 32 men.

A Women's Rights Movement

Elizabeth Cady Stanton spent the remainder of her life fighting for the rights she first articulated in 1848. From the 1850s through the 1880s she and her friend, Susan B. Anthony, were the primary leaders of the American women's movement. The women organized and lectured at local, state, and national conventions, and authored hundreds of articles in support of women's rights.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (left) and Susan B. Anthony worked together for many years as leaders of the early movement.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

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