First Woman's Rights Convention began in Seneca Falls, New York – July 19, 1848

 

 

The Seneca Falls Convention



Among the many important questions which have been brought before the public, there is none that more vitally affects the whole human family than that which is technically called Woman’s Rights. Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
Address Delivered at the Seneca Falls Convention,”
July 19-20, 1848.
Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection, 1848-1921

On July 19, 1848, the First Woman’s Rights Convention began in Seneca Falls, New York. The idea of holding such a meeting had originated eight years earlier in London, England, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and other women delegates were barred from participating in the 1840 World Antislavery Convention.

The real planning and preparation for the event took place at a couple of meetings that occurred just a few days before the convention. On July 9, 1848, Stanton, Mott, Martha C. Wright, Jane Hunt, and Mary Ann McClintock met over tea and decided to hold a conference to promote women’s rights. They placed an unsigned announcement in the Seneca County Courier advertising a Woman’s Rights convention to be held on Wednesday, July 19, and Thursday, July 20. On the first day of the convention only women were allowed to attend; the second day, the general public was invited to join the meeting.

Lucretia Mott
Lucretia Coffin Mott,
between 1860 and 1880.
By Popular Demand: “Votes for Women” Suffrage Pictures, 1850-1920

Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
and her Daughter Harriot
,
from a daguerreotype,
1856.
By Popular Demand: “Votes for Women” Suffrage Pictures, 1850-1920

On Sunday, July 16, some of the women met again to discuss an agenda. They began to draft a “Declaration of Sentiments.” Through the eve of the Convention, Stanton continued to write and revise the “Declaration” which she modeled after the Declaration of Independence:

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course… Declaration of Sentiments,”
The First Convention Ever Called to Discuss the Civil and Political Rights of Women,
Seneca Falls, New York, July 19, 20, 1848.
Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection, 1848-1921

On the morning of July 19, the meeting convened at the Wesleyan Church. Nearly 300 people responded to the invitation. Stanton read the “Declaration’s” preamble, eighteen grievances, and a list of resolutions calling for moral, economic, and political equality. Defying social pressures to remain quietly in the background, Stanton listed the ways women were subjugated by men:

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.
He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.
He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men–both natives and foreigners.
Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides.
He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.
Declaration of Sentiments,”
The First Convention Ever Called to Discuss the Civil and Political Rights of Women,
Seneca Falls, New York, July 19, 20, 1848.
Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection, 1848-1921

Additional grievances listed in the “Declaration” concerned church matters and interpretation of scriptures, issues of deep concern to Stanton. After giving voice to their indignation at the oppression of women, Stanton and Mott proposed a series of resolutions designed to realize the “Declaration’s” radical notion that “all men and women are created equal.”

To learn more about the resolutions passed at the Seneca Falls Convention select the Today in History feature for July 20, the second day of the convention.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Election Day!
1909.
By Popular Demand: “Votes for Women” Suffrage Pictures, 1850-1920

Learn more about the woman suffrage movement in American Memory:

 

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