Seneca Falls Conference

In 1848 the first women’s rights convention met in Seneca Falls, New York. The convention was planned and led by women’s rights activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, and it brought about the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (with some help from Mott and wrote the majority of a document called the Declaration of Sentiments, which was read at the convention and signed by 100 people who attended. 

The Declaration of Sentiments, as you may have guessed from the title, is formulated like the Declaration of Independence, and parallels the statements of that document. The Declaration of Sentiments, opens, “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary…” just as Jefferson’s Declaration does. However, this is not a set of colonies demanding their rights from a distant monarchy. Instead, it argues that women have been controlled too long by men—and you know Stanton took the opportunity to include the line: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal…” The Declaration of Sentiments, like the Declaration of Independence, includes a lengthy list of “grievances,” in which the author lists the injustices women of the United States have faced due to male control and governance. 

Why do you think Elizabeth Cady Stanton chose to parallel the format of the Declaration of Independence? Do you think this was an effective choice?

For whom is this Declaration of Sentiments written? Does Stanton do a thorough job of describing the injustices faced by women in the United States? Near the end of the Declaration she writes, “…In view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people in this country, their social and religious degradation…we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United States.” Who does she mean when she says “one-half the people?” What about when she refers to “we,” and “they”?

Elizabeth Cady Stanton