When one thinks of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, one usually thinks only about Susan B. Anthony. Besides giving speeches and getting arrested trying to vote, Anthony also appeared on the U.S. coin dollar. Besides Anthony, there were hundreds of women involved in getting women the right to vote, including Anthony’s best friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton. While majority of the women focused only on voting, Stanton also focused on women leaving unhappy marriage and saying “no” to their husband if they didn’t want to have sex; two very radical ideas at the time. Stanton believed before many women did that women are equal to men.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born on November 12, 1815 in Johnston, New York. Her father, Daniel Cady, was a New York Supreme Court judge so she grew up learning about law and how to debate. She attended Emma Willard’s Academy but because she was a woman, she could not attend college. After the academy, she spent much of her time at her cousin’s, the abolitionist Gerrit Smith. While she was there, Stanton met Henry B. Stanton and the two married in 1840. They spent their honeymoon at the World’s Antislavery Convection in London where Stanton met Lucretia Mott, an American female abolitionist. The two women were not allowed to participate in the antislavery convection, forced to sit in a rope-off area. The couple went to live in Boston, Massachusetts, where Stanton was surrounded by free-thinkers, including Louisa May Alcott and Frederick Douglass.
In 1847, the Stantons moved to Seneca Falls, New York. After having seven children, Stanton grew tired of domestic confinement and began working to get the Married Women’s Property Bill passed. The bill passed in New York in April 1948; it allowed women to own their property after marrying, instead of having their belongings go to the husbands. In July 1848, with the help of Mott, she organized the world’s first women’s rights convection. The two women never forgot being roped off from men at the slavery convection.Over 300 people attended, – it was the official start of the women suffrage movement. In 1851, she met Susan B. Anthony through Amelia Bloomer; the two would remain best friends for the rest of their lives. While Stanton had to stay at home to take care of her husband and children, Anthony was single and able to travel; thus, Stanton wrote the speeches and Anthony delivered them. In 1854, Stanton addressed the New York Legislation on a women’s rights bill. Stanton and Anthony formed the National Women’s Loyal League on the constitutional abolition of slavery. They were upset when the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments allowed former male salves to vote but not American women, black or white. In 1969, they established the National Woman’s Suffrage Association, the forerunner of the organization that eventually secured the Nineteenth Amendment. The organization was upset that the Amendments passed excluding women while the American Woman Suffrage Association, founded by Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe, supported the Amendments. In 1876, she wrote the Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States, which Anthony presented, uninvited, at the Centennial Celebration in Washington, D.C. in 1876. The Rights were signed by several feminists, including Lucretia Mott. Stanton, Anthony, and Matilda Gage wrote the first three volumes of A History of Women Suffrage.
While majority of women concentrated on gaining voting rights, Stanton focused on women being able to divorce alcoholic husbands and to leave unhappy marriages; she also believed women should decide if they want more children and if not, they should be able to tell their husband “no” when he wanted to have sex or use birth control. Stanton believed organized Christianity was sexist, so in 1898, along with Gage, published The Women’s Bible. Stanton’s radical ideas shocked the conservative AMSA members, the reason why Stanton grew unpopular. In 1890, the National American Woman Suffrage merged with the conservative American Woman Suffrage Association. Stanton opposed the merge, but became the first president. Though the two ideas had differing ideas, they both agreed that women should be able to vote.
Stanton died from heart failure on October 26, 1902, 18 years before women were granted the right to vote. Though she almost disappeared from the history books due to her radical views in the late 1800’s, she is gaining popularity as Americans realize that women do deserve to have a happy marriage. At the Capital Rotunda, there is a sculpture of Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton on display. Stanton’s biggest regret was that she was not able to attend college because she was a woman; her daughters were able to attend college.
- Matilda Joslyn Gage: Radical Feminist (tbchick2011.wordpress.com)