Inequality. We are all familiar with the inequalities that existed when our country started out. As I wrote about in my previous blog, colonists fought against the British for forcing unjust taxes on them. Outraged against the unfairness, colonists fought to be free from Britain. Even after they won freedom, numerous inequalities existed in early America.
One of the more prominent inequalities was the rights women had compared to men. Men were free to be educated, work in a profession of their choice, vote, attend meetings, and have a voice in the world. Women on the other hand were lucky if they received any form of education. They were to work in the home doing the cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the family. Women who were able to work and earn money often had to give up all of their earnings to her husband or received no recognition in their profession. In A People's History of the United States, Zinn writes that "The use of the phrase all men are created equal was probably not a deliberate attempt to make a statement about women. It was just that women were beyond consideration as worthy of inclusion" (57). By the time Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave her speech in 1848, women had enough and started speaking out for their equal rights.
The Seneca Fall Convention was primarily organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. It was held July 19-20 in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. An article written in the Dictionary of American History states that, "During a casual visit by Mott at Stanton's home in Seneca Falls, the two shared their common frustration with the slow pace of progress for women. Deciding to act, they placed an advertisement in a local paper calling for a meeting on the subject of women's rights to be convened the very next week". http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Seneca_Falls_Convention_1848.aspx. During the convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave a speech called "The Declaration of Sentiments". She modeled her speech after the Declaration of Independence. This is shown by the statement that she makes "...that all men and women are created equal". She replaces the line in the Declaration of Independence that states "all men are created equal" because in leaving the word "women" out of that statement, they aren't treated with the same justices that men receive in the declaration. http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/speeches/stanton_seneca_falls.html. As her powerful speech continues, she states the several injustices that face women. "He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice. He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men--both natives and foreigners. Having deprived her of this first right of a citizedn, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides. He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead. He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns". http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/speeches/stanton_seneca_falls.html. Coming from a women who lived during these times, these lines reinforce that inequality existed and how it effected women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton concludes her speech by saying "...women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States". http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/speeches/stanton_seneca_falls.html.
Even after Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave this speech, it still took several years for women to gain their given rights as citizens of the United States. The Seneca Falls Convention that she held along with Lucretia Mott helped bring attention to the issue on a bigger scale. Women deserved the same rights that men did. Years later in our time, we are still seeing the role of women in the workplace becoming more equal to that of men. Women are no longer expected to stay home and be the housewife. They have just as many opportunities as men do these days. These opportunities wouldn't have come around to us as soon as they did if it weren't for people like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott standing up for the injustices that were placed upon women in the early formation of our country.
"Seneca Falls Convention." Dictionary of American History. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Oct. 2010 http://www.encyclopedia.com/
"The Declaration of Sentiments." Social Justice Speeches. http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/speeches/stanton_seneca_falls.html
Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States, Volume I. New York, The New Press. 2003.