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Seneca Falls Convention

Background and Details

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton, seated, and Susan B. Anthony, standing

Image of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, seated, and Susan B. Anthony, standing. They were both important leaders in the fight for womens suffrage.

Credit: Library of Congress

Many individuals cite the Seneca Falls Convention held in Seneca Falls, New York to be the beginning of the women's movement in America. However, the idea for the convention came about at another protest meeting: the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. At that convention, the female delegates were not allowed to participate in the debates. Lucretia Mott wrote in her diary that even though the convention was titled a 'World' convention, "that was mere poetical license." She had accompanied her husband to London, but had to sit behind a partition with other ladies such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton. They took a dim view of their treatment, or rather mistreatment, and the idea of a women's convention was born.

In the interim between the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention and the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton composed the Declaration of Sentiments, a document declaring the rights of women modeled on the Declaration of Independence. It is worth noting that upon showing her Declaration to her husband, Mr. Stanton was less than pleased. He stated that if she read the Declaration at the Seneca Falls Convention, he would leave town.

The Declaration of Sentiments contained several resolutions including that a man should not withhold a woman's rights, take her property or refuse to allow her to vote. The 300 participants spent July 19th and 20th arguing, refining and voting on the Declaration. Most of the resolutions received unanimous support. However, the right to vote had many dissenters including one very prominent figure, Lucretia Mott.

The convention was treated with scorn from all corners. The press and religious leaders denounced the happenings at Seneca Falls. However, a positive report was printed at the office of The North Star, Frederick Douglass' newspaper.

Many leaders of the Women's Movement were also leaders in the Abolitionist Movement and vice-versa. However, the two movements while occurring at approximately the same time were in fact very different. While the abolitionist movement was fighting a tradition of tyranny against the African-American, the women's movement was fighting a tradition of protection. Many men and women felt that each sex had its own place in the world. Women were to be protected from such things as voting and politics. The difference between the two movements is emphasized by the fact that it took women 50 more years to achieve suffrage than it did African-American men.

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