Elizabeth Stanton’s Impact on Women’s Rights Movement

Abstract

For centuries, there have been several social issues that have been resolved by the actions of pioneers who stood for change. Whether the goal was to resolve violent bigotry or give equal rights to those without, these changes were vital in shaping our nation today. With every development in the system, more people became pursuant in advocating for change. The topic that will be discussed in this analysis revolves around the women’s rights movement. The greatest advocate for the advancement in women’s rights is Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Stanton’s Life

Elizabeth Stanton was born November 12, 1815 into a family of rather high status. She had many siblings but sadly, only half of them lived to see adulthood which led to her being left with four sisters. Aside from losing family members, even in her youth, she was exposed to the harsh realities and social issues taking place. According to the Encyclopedia of World Biography, her father, Daniel Cady, held several important roles in society such as being a lawyer, member of congress, and a judge on New York state supreme court. (Encyclopedia of World Biography, n.d.) By having such close ties with someone who can affect change, it is no wonder why she took an interest in advocating for change. With this, it can be concluded that Stanton had an empathetic and bold nature.

Stanton was a fortunate woman in the resources she had available to her. She received the best education that women were allowed in this era and often competed academically against men her age or older. She also was very driven by interactions with her father, and his knowledge of the legal system that he passed on to her. Stanton would eventually make use of everything she absorbed from her father to benefit people other than herself. According to the Encyclopedia of World Biography, her father’s emotions towards losing his sole male heir led him to expressing to Elizabeth that he wished she was a boy. This could be what inspired her to begin this adventure towards women’s rights.

Stanton was a woman who took charge of a situation and acted accordingly. This could be seen even in her initial approach to the issues that were occurring. It wasn’t until 1848 that she would soon be surrounded by several other reformers and abolitionists. This would be the first women’s rights convention to be held, and it took place in Seneca Falls, New York. With all these great minds put together, they drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, which was ultimately the basis of their cause. The declaration included unfair wages, opportunities, and issues regarding divorce in this era. Even though Stanton was assisted in this draft, she articulated their argument very well and exhibited her top-notch education. This would go down in history as the Seneca Falls Convention and be considered the initial act towards the women’s rights movement.

Elizabeth’s activism would soon be recognized by prominent figures of society such as Frederick Douglass. Others were beginning to see the importance of these social and legal changes that needed to happen. Following the Seneca Falls Convention, Stanton was introduced to a woman who would play a vital role in the movement. Her name is Susan B. Anthony and she proved efficient in areas that Stanton was not. In a way, it seems as if the responsibilities were split between the two women with Stanton being the brains of the operation and Anthony being the spokesperson. By combining forces, they would soon meet other pioneers in the movement for women’s rights.

Other pioneers such as Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone, and Matilda Joslyn Gage are but few of the women whom are known for their accomplishments. There may be a difference of opinion on the matter, but it is irrefutable that these women were vital to the cause. During the civil war, these women, and several more would be united in their approach to this issue. The leaders would soon split into two large organizations after a disagreement on how the focus should be shifted. Lucy Stone would go on and become a co-founder of the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) along with Elizabeth Blackwell and Julia Ward Howe. Elizabeth Stanton would become president of The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) with Susan Anthony being the co-founder of this organization.

Although these organizations both advocated for women’s rights, The NWSA had a difference in opinion regarding the 15th amendment. Stanton had an “all or nothing” mentality regarding the issue of the suffrage movement. She could not accept that the amendment that would soon be passed did not specify women’s rights. She believed that all the rights that were being granted to African American men should also be applied to women as well. It is apparent that Stanton had women’s best interest at heart during her crusade by the sheer fact she did not want to settle for mediocre changes.

But, the AWSA had no issue with the details of the 15th amendment. This could have been problematic for several reasons. Although the AWSA was a larger, better funded organization, it was not as driven as the NWSA. The perception the AWSA had been that the advancement of their cause could be put on hold to focus on the social injustices taken out on black men of the United States. Although this does not automatically conclude that one group cares about the women’s rights movement any less, it does show that the effort and dedication that was shown by Stanton was slightly more thorough. This argument backs up the thesis that she was the greatest advocate for change in this era.

Another accomplishment that should be mentioned when discussion Elizabeth Stanton is her brilliant work of literature. From writing speeches to writing books, she was truly skillful in this aspect. She has written an autobiography, “Eighty Years and More”, that discusses her life, and the issues that she has had to face prior to beginning the movement. According to Jone Lewis, another famous piece of literature that she and dozens of other women contributed to in 1895 would be “The Woman’s Bible”. (Lewis, 2017) This book exhibits the attitude and thought process of the feminists of this era. It discusses the traditional customs and norms that involve marriage and the submissiveness exhibited by women in these relationships. The final piece of literature that assisted in their cause would be her resignation speech. The title of this speech was “The Solitude of Self” and was extremely thorough in reiterating the basis of their cause such as it was in the Declaration of Sentiments.

There are many women who have gone down in history for their accomplishments, but would those accomplishments even be possible had it not been for the initial actions taken by Stanton? Would a woman who comes from a high social standing put her neck on the line to advocate change for an entire gender? After all, if the first convention had never taken place there is no guarantee that the women of this time would have gotten the motivation to pursue these issues. She may have advocated for change all the same but brainstorming with individuals who have the same mindset as her allowed progress to come more rapidly. When approaching social issues, it cannot hurt to bounce ideas and come to different conclusion as a unit. While comparing Stanton to other women, it is important to discuss the intentions as well progress that has been made due to her actions.

Another counterargument that may be made is that Elizabeth did not practice what she would preach. Aside from being well spoken and educated on the matter she was approaching, she also was the embodiment of what a true feminist is. An example of her strong-willed mindset would be exhibited the day of her marriage. A custom that was normally practiced during marriage in this era would be that the woman would take her husband’s last name and vow to obey and submit to them. She denied this custom by keeping her maiden name and omitted the word obey from her vows. She believed that the oppression that women suffered needed to come to an abrupt halt.

The final counterargument that one could make is that she was not the only woman at the first convention therefore, she should not solely hold the title as the greatest advocate. This is simply a matter of opinion and cannot be held true for many reasons. There are many battles for women’s rights that were not won or completed while Stanton was alive, but this should not take away from her importance. Although it would not happen until she had already passed away, legislation such as the 19th amendment ultimately came from the fruits of her labor. It is also important to recognize the issues the addressed initially. Although she did pursue the right that would allow women to vote, she also wanted women to be able to have a say in their affairs regarding marital issues.

In conclusion, there are several women who played an important role in advocating change. There are also outside factors that initiated those people to act on the social issues. Whether that outside factor is war or inequality becoming unacceptable, it is important to note the steps that everyone has taken to resolve the main issue. Without Elizabeth Stanton, there is a possibility that the movement for women’s rights may have taken longer to address. These are the findings that have allowed the conclusion to be made that Elizabeth Stanton was indeed, the greatest advocate for the women’s rights movement.

Works Cited

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  12. Lewis, Jone Johnson. “”Comments on Genesis” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton from The Woman’s Bible.” Thoughtco. Accessed December 04, 2018. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-womans-bible-excerpt-3530448.
  13. Stanton, Elizabeth. “”The Solitude of Self”: Stanton Appeals for Women’s Rights.” HISTORY MATTERS – The U.S. Survey Course on the Web. Accessed December 04, 2018. http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5315/.
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