Type in the content of your page here.A Tea Launches a Revolution
The Women's Rights Movement marks July 13, 1848 as its beginning. On that sweltering summer day in upstate New York, a young housewife and mother, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was invited to tea with four women friends. When the course of their conversation turned to the situation of women, Stanton poured out her discontent with the limitations placed on her own situation under America's new democracy. Hadn't the American Revolution had been fought just 70 years earlier to win the patriots freedom from tyranny? But women had not gained freedom even though they'd taken equally tremendous risks through those dangerous years. Surely the new republic would benefit from having its women play more active roles throughout society. Stanton's friends agreed with her, passionately. This was definitely not the first small group of women to have such a conversation, but it was the first to plan and carry out a specific, large-scale program.
Within two days of their afternoon tea together, this small group had picked a date for their convention, found a suitable location, and placed a small announcement in the Seneca County Courier. They called "A convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman." The gathering would take place at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls on July 19 and 20, 1848.
In the history of western civilization, no similar public meeting had ever been called.

A "Declaration of Sentiments" is Drafted
These were patriotic women, sharing the ideal of improving the new republic. They saw their mission as helping the republic keep its promise of better, more egalitarian lives for its citizens. As the women set about preparing for the event, Elizabeth Cady Stanton used the Declaration of Independence as the framework for writing what she titled a "Declaration of Sentiments." In what proved to be a brilliant move, Stanton connected the nascent campaign for women's rights directly to that powerful American symbol of liberty. The same familiar words framed their arguments: "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
In this Declaration of Sentiments, Stanton carefully enumerated areas of life where women were treated unjustly. Eighteen was precisely the number of grievances America's revolutionary forefathers had listed in their Declaration of Independence from England.
Stanton's version read, "The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world."

Then it went into specifics:
  • Married women were legally dead in the eyes of the law
  • Women were not allowed to vote
  • Women had to submit to laws when they had no voice in their formation
  • Married women had no property rights
  • Husbands had legal power over and responsibility for their wives to the extent that they could imprison or beat them with impunity
  • Divorce and child custody laws favored men, giving no rights to women
  • Women had to pay property taxes although they had no representation in the levying of these taxes
  • Most occupations were closed to women and when women did work they were paid only a fraction of what men earned
  • Women were not allowed to enter professions such as medicine or law
  • Women had no means to gain an education since no college or university would accept women students
  • With only a few exceptions, women were not allowed to participate in the affairs of the church
  • Women were robbed of their self-confidence and self-respect, and were made totally dependent on men

Strong words... Large grievances... And remember: This was just seventy years after the Revolutionary War. Doesn't it seem surprising to you that this unfair treatment of women was the norm in this new, very idealistic democracy? But this Declaration of Sentiments spelled out what was the status quo for European-American women in 1848 America, while it was even worse for enslaved Black women.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton's draft continued: "Now, in view of this entire disenfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation, -- in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because 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 these United States."
That summer, change was in the air and Elizabeth Cady Stanton was full of hope that the future could and would be brighter for women.

The First Women's Rights Convention
The convention was convened as planned, and over the two-days of discussion, the Declaration of Sentiments and 12 resolutions received unanimous endorsement, one by one, with a few amendments. The only resolution that did not pass unanimously was the call for women's enfranchisement. That women should be allowed to vote in elections was almost inconceivable to many. Lucretia Mott, Stanton's longtime friend, had been shocked when Stanton had first suggested such an idea. And at the convention, heated debate over the woman's vote filled the air.
Today, it's hard for us to imagine this, isn't it? Even the heartfelt pleas of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a refined and educated woman of the time, did not move the assembly. Not until Frederick Douglass, the noted Black abolitionist and rich orator, started to speak, did the uproar subside. Woman, like the slave, he argued, had the right to liberty. "Suffrage," he asserted, "is the power to choose rulers and make laws, and the right by which all others are secured." In the end, the resolution won enough votes to carry, but by a bare majority.
The Declaration of Sentiments ended on a note of complete realism: "In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and national Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions, embracing every part of the country."

Continued on: http://www.legacy98.org/move-hist.html