Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule...

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (12 November 181526 October 1902) was an American writer and activist who was a leader of the women's rights movement in the U.S. during the mid- to late-19th century. She was the main force behind the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, the first convention to be called for the sole purpose of discussing women's rights, and was the primary author of its Declaration of Sentiments. Her demand for women's right to vote generated a controversy at the convention but quickly became a central tenet of the women's movement. She was also active in other social reform activities, especially the abolition of slavery.


  • The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her... He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective to the franchise. He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she has no voice...
    Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise , thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, her has oppressed her on all sides. He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
  • In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object.
    • Declaration of Sentiments, Seneca Falls Convention (July 19-20, 1848).
  • Resolved, That is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.
    • First Woman's Rights Convention, Seneca Falls, New York, [July, 19-20, 1848]. Resolution IX.
  • The prejudice against color, of which we hear so much, is no stronger than that against sex. It is produced by the same cause, and manifested very much in the same way. The negro's skin and the woman's sex are both prima facie evidence that they were intended to be in subjection to the white Saxon man.
    • Speech before the New York Legislature (February 18, 1860).
  • Women's degradation is in man's idea of his sexual rights. Our religion, laws, customs, are all founded on the belief that woman was made for man. Come what will, my whole soul rejoices in the truth that I have uttered.
  • Our "pathway" is straight to the ballot box, with no variableness nor shadow of turning...We demand in the Reconstruction suffrage for all the citizens of the Republic. I would not talk of Negroes or women, but of citizens.
  • We are, as a sex, infinitely superior to men, and if we were free and developed, healthy in body and mind, as we should be under natural conditions, our motherhood would be our glory. That function gives women such wisdom and power as no male can possess.
  • We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal.
    • First Woman's Rights Convention, Seneca Falls, New York, [July, 19-20, 1848]. Declaration of Sentiments.
  • I have endeavored to dissipate these religious superstitions from the minds of women, and base their faith on science and reason, where I found for myself at last that peace and comfort I could never find in the Bible and the church.
  • For fifty years the women of this nation have tried to dam up this deadly stream that poisons all their lives, but thus far they have lacked the insight or courage to follow it back to its source and there strike the blow at the fountain of all tyranny, religious superstition, priestly power and the canon law.
  • In defense of the right to...marry whom we please -- we might quote some of the basic principles of our government [and] suggest that in some things individual rights to tastes should control....If a good man from Maryland sees fit to marry a disenfranchised woman from New York, there should be no legal impediments to the union.
    • Statement regarding Frederick Douglass' marriage to Helen Pitts. Western New York Suffragists: Frederick Douglass, Rochester Regional Library Council, 2000, "In defense of the right to...marry whom we please -- we might quote some of the basic principles of our government [and] suggest that in some things individual rights to tastes should control....If a good man from Maryland sees fit to marry a disenfranchised woman from New York, there should be no legal impediments to the union." .
  • To make laws that man cannot, and will not obey, serves to bring all law into contempt.
    • Address to the Tenth National Women's Rights Convention on Marriage and Divorce, New York City, May 11, 1860; as published in Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Feminist as Thinker: A Reader in Documents and Essays edited by Ellen Carol DuBois and Richard Cándida Smith.

Susan B. Anthony (1884)

"Susan B. Anthony" from Our Famous Women: An Authorized Record of the Lives and Deeds of Distinguished American Women of Our Times (1884)
  • All honor to the noble women that have devoted earnest lives to the intellectual needs of mankind!
  • Susan had an earnest soul, a conscience tending to morbidity.
  • In ancient Greece she would have been a Stoic; in the era of the Reformation, a Calvinist; in King Charles's time, a Puritan; but in this nineteenth century, by the very laws of her being, she is a Reformer.
Address delivered by Elizabeth Cady Stanton before the Committee of the Judiciary of the United States Congress, Monday, January 18, 1892
  • The isolation of every human soul and the necessity of self-dependence must give each individual the right, to choose his own surroundings.
  • No matter how much women prefer to lean, to be protected and supported, nor how much men desire to have them do so, they must make the voyage of life alone, and for safety in an emergency they must know something of the laws of navigation.
  • No mortal ever has been, no mortal ever will be like the soul just launched on the sea of life.
  • To deny political equality is to rob the ostracised of all self-respect; of credit in the market place; of recompense in the world of work; of a voice among those who make and administer the law; a choice in the jury before whom they are tried, and in the judge who decides their punishment.

The Woman's Bible (1898)

  • Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving.
  • The darkest page in history is the persecutions of woman.
  • Men think that self-sacrifice is the most charming of all the cardinal virtues for women, and in order to keep it in healthy working order, they make opportunities for its illustration as often as possible. I would fain teach women that self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.
  • The only points in which I differ from all ecclesiastical teaching is that I do not believe that any man ever saw or talked with God, I do not believe that God inspired the Mosaic code, or told the historians what they say he did about woman, for all the religions on the face of the earth degrade her, and so long as woman accepts the position that they assign her, her emancipation is impossible.
  • Accepting the view that man was prior in the creation, some Scriptural writers say that as the woman was of the man, therefore, her position should be one of subjection. Grant it, then as the historical fact is reversed in our day, and the man is now of the woman, shall his place be one of subjection?
  • In fact the wives of the patriarchs, all untruthful, and one a kleptomaniac, but illustrate the law, that the cardinal virtues are seldom found in oppressed classes.
  • In the criminal code we find no feminine pronouns, as "He," "His," "Him," we are arrested, tried and hung, but singularly enough, we are denied the highest privileges of citizens, because the pronouns "She," "Hers" and "Her," are not found in the constitutions. It is a pertinent question, if women can pay the penalties of their crimes as "He," why may they not enjoy the privileges of citizens as "He"?

Quotes about Elizabeth Cady Stanton

  • I want you to understand that I never could have done the work I have if I had not had this woman at my right hand.
  • I never saw that great woman, Mary Wollstonecraft, but I l have read her eloquent and unanswerable arguments in behalf of the liberty of womankind. I have met and known most of the progressive women who came after her — Lucretia Mott, the Grimké sisters, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone — a long galaxy of great women. I have heard them speak, saying in only slightly different phrases exactly what I heard these newer advocates of the cause say at these meetings. Those older women have gone on and most of those who work with me in the early years have gone. I am here for a little time only and then my place will be filled as theirs was filled. The fight must not cease; you must see that it does not stop. There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause — I wish I could name every one — but with such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible!
    • Susan B. Anthony speech February 15, 1906 — 38th Annual Convention, National American Woman Suffrage Association, Baltimore MD
  • there was considerable anti-Semitic sentiment among Protestant suffrage leaders. Stanton focused on the Jewish (“Old”) Testament attitude to women...
  • It is no wonder that the eager, highly intelligent, already rebellious, young bride Elizabeth Cady Stanton found Lucretia Mott a "revelation," and they "walked home arm in arm" from the convention hall to their lodgings in Queen Street declaring "it was high time some demand was made for the liberties of women," and "discussing the propriety of calling a woman's rights convention."
  • The struggle for the right of women to vote was nationwide and growing. It had started with the first Equal Rights Convention, at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, which was addressed by Frederick Douglass, the great Negro leader. The suffragists had been ridiculed, assaulted by mobs, refused halls, arrested for attempting to vote, disowned by their families. By 1904, groups of working women, especially Socialist women, were banding together to join in the demand for the vote. Two years later, International Women's Day was born on the East Side of New York, at the initiative of these women demonstrating for suffrage. It spread around the world and is universally celebrated today, while here it is deprecated as "a foreign holiday."
  • Brave women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony had been the early pioneers, facing abuse and ridicule, violence and even arrests for attempting to vote. Later, women like Dr. Anna Howard Shaw and Carrie Chapman Catt headed the National American Women's Suffrage Association, which struggled against "the lethargy of women and the opposition of men." But by 1916 a younger, bolder and more militant group emerged, which was dissatisfied with the slower process of winning suffrage, state by state, and fought for a constitutional amendment. They organized the Women's Party in 1916, which planned to mobilize the women's vote in all suffrage states only for parties and candidates who would support national suffrage. That year a group of wealthy suffragists financed and toured in a Suffrage Special. They did not campaign directly for the Republican candidate, Charles Evans Hughes, but their slogan was anti-Wilson: "Vote against Wilson! He Kept Us Out of Suffrage!" Many voted for Eugene V. Debs, then in prison.
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Bloomer, Carrie Nation, Frances Willard, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, and the later suffragists of whom she [her mother] was one. These courageous women set a pattern not understood yet, standing in their prim strength, in their sweetness and sobriety against cruel ridicule, moral censure, charges of insanity; for there is no cruelty like that of the oppressor who feels his loss of the bit on those it has been his gain to oppress. "Pine knots as we are," Susan Anthony said. They used the only means open to them - they became orators when it was considered immoral for a woman to speak in public; if she went to meetings she was only to listen and learn. But they could use their constitutional right of petition, and they could tramp up and down, getting signatures for the right to work, to get a divorce, to speak in public, to vote.
  • The History of Woman Suffrage is an incomplete, flawed and heavily biased assemblage of sources. It distorts the origins of the movement by ignoring or downplaying the role of many activists and antecedent activists in favor of stressing the leadership of a few women. The strongly secular bias of its editors and their disenchantment with the organized churches in regard to the struggle of women for their emancipation are reflected in the way they defined the movement as mostly political and constitutional, disregarding the important feminist struggles in the various churches during the century.It is also factionally biased in its downplaying of the role of the women who in 1869 split with Stanton and Anthony, a distortion which is particularly striking in regard to the role of Lucy Stone. Yet these volumes have provided the basis for over a hundred years of historiography on the subject and, in what Mary Ritter Beard called "the long history of women," represent a milestone.
  • I have documented 700 years of feminist bible criticism prior to 1870, and every woman who engaged in that feminist bible criticism thought she was the first woman ever to do this. And when Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1893, published the Woman’s Bible, she put in the forward, “No woman before me has ever done this.” This is tragic, because it symbolizes the true position that women held in the world, which was to think, each woman thought, and each man taught each woman to think, and each mother taught their sons and daughters to think, that women have not contributed significantly to the creation of thought, to the creation of culture, and to the creation of civilization. This is a lie, all right?
  • Mainstream feminist leaders (with the exception of the aging Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the younger Charlotte Perkins Gilman) muted the earlier criticism of sexual and familial relationships in favor of concentration on legal and political issues. Whether they shifted their emphasis because of ideological considerations or as a tactical move was in one sense irrelevant; in the eyes of both its own rank-and-file and the larger society the movement as a whole became less radical, less threatening, and hence less likely to effect fundamental changes. The anarchist-feminists refused to accept this solution to the dilemma.
    • Margaret S Marsh, Anarchist Women, 1870-1920 (1981)
  • From the mid-seventies onward, organized feminism had become increasingly decorous. Matilda Joslyn Gage, after all, was forced to go outside the organized movement to find a platform for her anticlerical views, and the venerable but always irreverent Elizabeth Cady Stanton found herself out-flanked and outvoted by her more conventional sisters. While feminism moved toward respectability, anarchism, at least in the public view, became increasingly radical. Partly because of the fiery rhetoric of Johann Most and his admirers, and partly because of antiforeign sentiment, the anarchist came to be viewed as a symbol of irrational violence. The public image of the anarchist was that of a deranged terrorist.
    • Margaret S Marsh, Anarchist Women, 1870-1920 (1981)
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton who, amid no little derision from American lawyers, had battled valiently against William Blackstone's dictum that woman was a favorite in English law and had lived to see many triumphs over common-law doctrines in the enactment of married women's property acts in state after state.
  • With constant reiteration, the acclaimed legalist of the woman movement in the nineteenth century, Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an outstanding pleader for women's rights before law-making bodies, spoke and wrote as if William Blackstone's account of English law was in fact the law of the land-supreme law-in nearly all vital man-woman relations. It is true that Mrs. Stanton mentioned from time to time the gains which women had been making and were making in their struggle against formulas of the common law; but she repeatedly resorted to wholesale generalizations which treated Blackstone's sweeping generalizations as still binding in law, even to her day in the United States.
  • Struggle brought about the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited the government from denying women the right to vote. The amendment did not just appear: It was the fruit of the struggle of the suffragettes, led by such figures as Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the mid-nineteenth century.
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the greatest of the early leaders
  • I had always resented the pains that militant suffragists took to belittle the work that woman had done in the past in the world, picturing her as a meek and prostrate "doormat." They refused, I felt, to pay proper credit to the fine social and economic work that women had done in the building of America. And in 1909, after we took over the American Magazine, I burst out with a series of studies of leading American women from the Revolution to the Civil War, including such stalwarts as Mercy Warren, Abigail Adams, Esther Reed, Mary Lyon, Catharine Beecher, the fighting antislavery leaders-not omitting two for whom I had warm admiration, if I was not in entire agreement with them, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

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