Women to Watch: Elizabeth Cady Stanton


American activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton was certainly a warrior and a sage as well as a mother and lover. Married with seven children, she spoke in 1848 at the first convention on women's rights organized by women, The Seneca Falls Convention, named for where it was held in Seneca Falls, New York. There, she presented a document for which she was a principal author: The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions. Three hundred people, both men and women, heard the concerns of women over the two days of the conference. After the conference, Stanton tirelessly advocated for women's voting, parental and custody, property, employment, income and birth control rights. She was a close colleague of, and wrote with, Susan B. Anthony.

After the Civil War, despite having been a fervent abolitionist, Stanton took the controversial position of opposing the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, which allowed African American males the right to vote but excluded women of all races. It took twenty years for the two camps of the women's movement to rejoin. When they did it was with Stanton as President.

Along with twenty-six women, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote The Woman's Bible, a book that challenged the religious precept that women were to be subservient to men. She believed that religion was an important cause for discrimination against women. Before her marriage, she convinced her soon-to-be husband, Henry Stanton, to have the word "obey" taken out of their wedding vows. During her marriage, she insisted on being known by her name, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, rather than Mrs. Henry Stanton.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton died eighteen years before women won the right to vote, something we take for granted today, even forgetting to go to the polls. We owe much to the fighting and persistent spirit of early feminists. Now more than ever, we must exercise our right to vote and put in office people who stand up for women's rights, including the rights not to be raped, not to be paid less for the same work as men, and to enforce fathers' obligations to help support their children after divorce. Even as women gain positions of power and it seems likely our country will see a woman President before too long, today's national discussion lapses all too often into outdated and inaccurate ideas about women's constitutional rights, overlooking the protection of these hard earned rights.

You may find it inspiring to read more about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her projects here: