Not ago, in the nineteenth century, the words that our forefathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “that all men were created equal,” held little value. Human equality was far from a reality. If you were not born of white male decent, than that phrase did not apply to you. During this period many great leaders and reformers emerged, fighting both for the rights of African Americans and for the rights of women. One of these great leaders was Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton dedicated her entire life to the women’s movement, despite the opposition she received, from both her family and friends. In the course of this paper, I will be taking a critical look at three of Stanton’s most acclaimed speeches “Declaration of Sentiments”, “Solitude of Self”, and “ Home Life”, and develop a claim that the rhetoric in these speeches was an effective tool in advancing the movement as a whole.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born November 12, 1815, in Johnstown, New York. She was born unto a conservative, Presbyterian family of considerable social standing. Her father, Judge Daniel Cady, was considered to be both a wealthy landowner and a prominent citizen with great political status (Banner 3). Stanton was one of seven children, 6 of which were girls, to be born to Daniel and Margaret. Growing up in the period that she did, Elizabeth was very fortunate to receive the outstanding education that she did since it was not as important to educate daughters as it was sons. She overcame that boundary when she began attending Johnstown Academy. She was the only girl in most of her classes, which was unheard of in those days. Even when females did attend schools, they were learning about “womanly” things, like how to run a household, not advanced math and science courses, like she was in. She then went on to further her education at a very prominent educational institution, Emma Willard’s Troy Seminary. After that she studied law with her father, who was a New York Supreme Court Judge. It is through this training that her awareness was raised about the discrimination that women were subjected to.
In 1840, Elizabeth married an abolitionist organizer named Henry Stanton, much to her family’s dismay. After their marriage, Elizabeth and her husband traveled to London for a worldwide antislavery convention. It was here that she met Lucretia Mott, another well-know women’s rights reformist, who was chosen as an American delegate to the convention. They were both outraged that the female delegates that were attending this convention were denied participation because of their sex. It was at this convention that their fire was ignited and they became allies in the war against the discrimination of women’s rights.
The first wave of the women’s movement is said to have begun roughly in the year 1840, and lasted through the year 1925. While the convention in London sparked the fire in 1840, it was not until 1845, that the fire was a full blaze. The signature event that is believed to be the official starting point of the women’s suffrage movement was in 1848 when a group of women met in Seneca Falls, New York (Wood 66). The Senaca Falls Convention was organized by a group of women, including Stanton, that were fed up with the mistreatment of women in the antislavery battle. They were now going to primarily place their focus on the rights of women. Consequently, the movement became almost entirely white, both in interest and membership (Wood 68). It was at this first convention that Stanton delivered the Speech the “Declaration of Sentiments” which addressed the grievances that women had suffered under the “unjust government of men”. I will go into much greater detail concerning the specifics of this speech, later in the paper.
In the beginning, the women’s movement was not just a single-issue movement. Stanton realized that women were being oppressed in every aspect of their lives. Among the causes that she advocated are as follows: coeducation, girls’ sports, job training, equal wages, labor unions, birth control, cooperative nurseries and kitchens, property rights for wives, child custody rights for mothers, and reform of divorce laws (Wood 67). Many women did not