The Declaration of Sentiments: Summary & Analysis

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  • 0:05 The Right to Vote
  • 0:50 Convention and Adoption
  • 2:27 The Declaration
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we'll explore one of the most important works of the early women's rights movement in the United States, the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments.

The Right to Vote

When was the last time you voted? Chances are you stood in line for a while before getting to cast your ballot. There's also a pretty good chance you stood alongside both men and women and didn't think twice about it. This was not always the case in the history of our country. In fact, for the majority of U.S. history, women had far less public rights than men and were not allowed to vote.

In the middle of the 19th century, some women began clamoring for change, for greater rights, and above all, the right to vote. One of the seminal moments of this movement was the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments that was adopted during the course of the convention.

In this lesson, we'll explore the circumstances that gave rise to the Declaration and its content.

Convention and Adoption

In 19th-century America, traditional gender roles were enshrined in law in most places. Women could not vote, they had difficulties owning property in some areas, and they were generally expected to get married, have children, and remain within the home. In the 1830s and 1840s, some women began clamoring for societal change to give them greater freedoms and equal rights with men.

A few women began holding meetings where women's issues were discussed. These women were often vocal abolitionists, and the fight to end slavery often coincided with a call for greater rights for women as well. Quaker women were particularly involved in both the abolitionist and the early women's rights movement.

In the 1840s, a group of Quaker women in upstate New York began organizing a meeting to discuss the plight of women in American society and ways to redress their grievances. The event took place in July 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York, and is now known as the Seneca Falls Convention. It was attended by several hundred men and women interested in the issue, notably by early women's rights activists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

At the end of the two-day conference, 100 delegates of the conference, including 68 women and 32 men, signed the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments to publicize their grievances with the current social and political situation for women in the United States and to foster change. The Declaration was principally written by Stanton.

The Declaration received both praise and criticism upon its publication. It's widely regarded today as one of the founding documents of the women's rights movement in the United States.

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