A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable—the poor, women, and people with disabilities. Thanks to the determination and work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who worked so hard to change the social and political space in the United States of America.
Her endless efforts made sure that the rights of women and slaves were heard. She became a voice to the voiceless and made sure that their needs were taken care of. She was the early leader in women’s right movement.
Elizabeth Cady was an abolitionist and a leading figure of the early women’s movement. Elizabeth was the president of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) for more than 20 years.
Quick Facts about Elizabeth Stanton
- Birth Name: Elizabeth Cady
- Full Name: Elizabeth Cady Stanton
- Known For: Fighting for Women’s Rights
- Famous As: Women’s Rights Activist, Abolitionist, Writer
- Born On: 12 November 1815
- Place Of Birth: Johnstown, New York, United States
- Died On: 26 October 1902
- Education: Johnstown Academy, Troy Female Seminary
- Parents: Daniel Cady (Father), Margaret Livingston Cady (Mother)
- Spouse: Henry Brewster Stanton
Early Life and Childhood
Elizabeth Cady was born on November 12, 1815, in Johnstown, New York. She was the eighth child out of the eleven children of her parents; Daniel Cady and Margaret Livingston Cady.
Daniel Cady was a prominent Federalist attorney who served one term in the United States Congress from 1814-1817. Daniel Cady later became both a circuit court judge and the judge of New York Supreme Court Justice.
- Her father wished she was a boy.
- Her passion for women’s rights was forged during childhood.
- Elizabeth Stanton organized the first women’s rights convention.
- She wrote a bestselling critique of Christianity.
- She was the first woman to run for congress.
- She tried to donate her brain to science, but her children refused to honour her dying wish.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was among few of her four sisters who survived and lived into adulthood and later old age. Five of her siblings died in early childhood and some at infancy. Her old Brother Eleazar died at the age of 20 just before he could graduate from Union College in Schenectady, New York.
Her mother Margaret, was so devastated by the loss of so many of her children that she sunk into depression, and this made her emotionally distanced from her surviving children. Elizabeth Stanton faced a maternal void in her childhood as her mother was not fully involved in her life.
A Girl is Just as Good as a Boy
In college, Elizabeth learned French, music, and dancing. When she was not in school, she would learn law, philosophy, politics, economy, history, and poetry from her brother in law.
Elizabeth was very interested in law, so she visited her father’s law office very often. There she learned how many laws were unfair to women, and she was very upset by it.
Her father, seeing how she was bothered, suggested that she should try to persuade lawmakers to change the law. Right that moment, Elizabeth knew what she had to do.
Later in her entire life, Elizabeth would follow this path in trying to gain civil rights for the women.
I Wish You were a Boy
Elizabeth Cady’s father made no secret for his preference for another son. This made Elizabeth so eager to excel in intellectual and other male-dominated spheres.
“I wish you were a boy,” her father constantly reminded her. However, Elizabeth always reminded her father that she would try to be all her brother was but, although Elizabeth excelled in all areas, her father’s reaction was still the same wishing that she was a boy.
Elizabeth believed that in order to be all her brother had been, she would have to prove that she was just as smart and brave as any boy. Elizabeth spent all her time trying to keep her promise to her father.
She learned to ride horses like a boy, galloping and leaping over the fences and ditches on horseback. She also talked a family friend into teaching her Greek. During her time, only the boys were taught Greek.
Unlike many women of her time, Elizabeth Cady received formal education. She attended Johnstown Academy in her home town until she was 16. She was the only girl in advanced classes in mathematics and languages. She was so bright in school and never faced challenges because of her sex. She won second prize in the school’s Greek competition and became a skilled debater.
With the father’s constant disapproval because she was a girl, she felt that all her efforts and achievements were undervalued by her father. Stanton had a neighbor Rev. Simon Hosack who strongly encouraged her academic abilities and intellectual development. Elizabeth Cady would be encouraged by Hosack.
Hosack went on to teach Stanton Greek and encouraged her to always read widely. He even gave Elizabeth his own Greek Lexicon along with other books. Knowing that at least a stranger believed in her was so encouraging. Hosack’s confirmation of Stanton’s intellectual abilities strengthened her confidence and self-esteem. She graduated from college in 1832.
Upon her graduation, Elizabeth faced her first taste of sexual discrimination. Young men in her class, including those she had surpassed academically, were allowed into Union college while she could not join college as it only accepted men.
She enrolled in the Troy Female Seminary in Troy, New York. Elizabeth knew that gender bias was not fair, and it made her angry. She wanted to prove that girls are just as good as the boys.
In school, Elizabeth Stanton was greatly influenced by a preacher of the revivalist movement. However, she later on never returned to organized Christianity. She maintained that logic and human sense of ethics were the best guides to both thought and behavior.
Elizabeth not only rejected Christianity but all religions. “All religions on the face of the earth degrade her (woman) and as long as a woman accepts the position that they assign her, her emancipation is impossible.”
Stanton also believed that the natural course of studying theology is to come to reject religion. She stood by the fact that religion is a delusion that we must be freed from.
Stanton eventually managed to convince some of her close friends and family, and together, they passed through every stage of theological experience from the uncertain ground of superstition and speculation to the solid foundation of science and reason.
Elizabeth Cady met Henry Brewster Stanton through her early involvement in the temperance and abolition movements. Henry was a friend of Elizabeth Stanton’s cousin Gerrit Smith, an abolitionist and member of the ‘secret six’.
Stanton was a journalist, an antislavery orator and later became an attorney after his marriage to Elizabeth. The couple was married in 1840 with Elizabeth Cady requesting the minister that the phrase ‘promise to obey’ be removed from wedding vows.
She later wrote in her defense, “I obstinately refused to obey one with whom I supposed I was entering into an equal relation.”
The couple had 6 children between 1842 and 1856. Their seventh last child was an unplanned baby born in 1859 when Elizabeth was 44 years.
The couple settled in Johnstown where Elizabeth’s husband studied law under his father in law until 1843 when Henry moved to Boston and joined a law firm. While in Boston, Elizabeth Stanton enjoyed the social, political, and intellectual stimulation that came with constant rounds of abolitionist gathering and meeting.
Their marriage had tension and disagreements as Elizabeth’s husband Henry disagreed on the notion of female suffrage. Employment, travel, and financial consideration made husband and wife live apart, and this made their marriage last for 47 years until the death of Henry in 1887.
Throughout their marriage and eventually widowhood, Elizabeth Cady took her husband’s name as part of her own. However, she refused to be addressed as Mrs. Henry Stanton, citing that women were individual persons.
She stated that the custom of calling women their husband’s names was founded on the principle that white men are lords of all.
In an era when it was commonly held that a wife must submit to her husband’s sexual demands, she firmly believed that women should have command over their sexual relationships and childbearing. Elizabeth’s children were born under a program she called voluntary motherhood.
As a mother, Elizabeth Stanton advocated for freedom of expression, much outdoor activity, and a solid, highly academic education for all her children. She enjoyed motherhood and the primary responsibility of rearing the children, however, she was bored and lonely.
This made her become more active and increasingly involved in the community. By 1848, she was committed to the nascent Women’s rights movement and was more than ready to engage in organized activism.
Activism in the Women’s Rights Movement
Elizabeth Stanton was an admirer and friend of Lucretia Mott, the Quaker minister, who was a feminist and abolitionist. The two had met at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London While Elizabeth Stanton was on Honeymoon. They became strong friends when the male delegates attending the convention voted that women should be denied participation in the proceedings.
After a heated debate, the women were required to sit in a roped-off section hidden from the view of the men in attendance. Soon, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who had arrived after the vote, in protest of the outcome, refused his seat and instead decided to sit with the women.
Seneca Falls Convention – Women’s Right To Vote
Seeing what had happened at the convention, Elizabeth Stanton joined a handful of women in Seneca Falls, and together they organized the Seneca Falls Convention. Over 300 people attended, and Elizabeth Stanton drafted a Declaration of Sentiments which she read at the convention.
On the United States Declaration of Independence, Elizabeth Stanton’s declaration proclaimed that men and women are created equal; she proposed that women be given the right to vote. The final resolutions, including female suffrage, were passed.
Elizabeth’s dream that women be granted the right to vote was not realized until august 26, 1920, when the 19th amendment was ratified. However, because of the efforts of Elizabeth Stanton, all the women in the US can now vote. It is very evident that voting women have shaped the policies of the US as well as the entire world.
Meeting Susan B. Anthony
In 1851, Elizabeth Stanton met Susan Anthony on the street in Seneca Falls. Susan was a feminist and mutual acquaintance who had not signed the declaration of sentiments. The two worked closely on behalf of the Women’s Suffrage.
Together they joined the temperance movement. During their leadership at the organization, Elizabeth Stanton scandalized many supporters by suggesting that drunkenness be made a sufficient cause of divorce. Soon Elizabeth Stanton and her friend Susan Anthony shifted their focus to female suffrage and women’s rights.
Single and with no children, Susan Anthony had all the time and energy which Elizabeth Stanton did not have, and so the two complemented each other. Elizabeth Stanton being a better orator and writer, scripted many of Anthony’s speech.
Married Women’s Property Law
In 1860, Elizabeth Stanton worked on the rights of married women, where she emerged victorious. The New York Legislature enacted the married women’s property law. The law gave married women the right to own property, engage in business, manage their wages and other income, sue and be sued, as well as the right to joint guardianship of their children.
Empower the Woman
Elizabeth Stanton began organized women’s rights movement in 1848, and she continued to be a leader in the fight for women’s rights. As an intelligent and motivated activist, she encouraged many women to work for women’s rights as well as the rights of others who were disadvantaged in society. These organizations empowered the woman giving them an opportunity to speak in public, vote on issues within these organizations, and make their own decisions on how they wanted the organization to proceed.
Women’s Loyal National League was the first national women’s political organization initiated by Elizabeth Stanton and Susan Anthony. During the civil war, the women in the organization fought for the 13th amendment to the constitution, which freed slaves. Elizabeth Stanton was a great mentor for many women, training them on effectively advocating for a cause.
Illness and Death
Elizabeth Stanton died of heart failure at her home in New York City on October 26, 1902.
In 1965, the Stanton house in Seneca Falls was declared a National Historic Landmark.
Elizabeth Stanton will forever remain hero who tried to be all her brother was, and ended up becoming so much more. She helped change the world by making women believe in themselves. She also changed the way men thought of women.
Famous Quotes by Elizabeth Cady Stanton
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal.”
“Progress is the victory of a new thought over old superstitions.”
“So long as women are slaves, men will be knaves.”
“Every truth we see is one to give to the world, not to keep to ourselves alone.”
“The history of the past is but one long struggle upward to equality.”
“Women’s degradation is in man’s idea of his sexual rights. Our religion, laws, customs, are all founded on the belief that woman was made for man.”
“The woman is uniformly sacrificed to the wife and mother.”
“To make laws that man cannot and will not obey, serves to bring all law into contempt.”
“The best protection any woman can have… is courage.”
“Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving.”
“I would have girls regard themselves not as adjectives but as nouns.”
“The darkest page in history is the persecutions of woman.”
“Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.”
“Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility.”
“A government is just only when the whole people share equally in its protection and advantages.”
“Human beings lose their logic in their vindictiveness.”
“To develop our real selves we need time alone for thought and meditation. To be always giving out and never pumping in, the well runs dry.”
“Whatever the theories may be of woman’s dependence on man, in the supreme moments of her life, he cannot bear her burdens. In the tragedies and triumphs of human experience, each mortal stands alone.”
“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.”
“We are, as a sex, infinitely superior to men, and if we were free and developed, healthy in body and mind, as we should be under natural conditions, our motherhood would be our glory. That function gives women such wisdom and power as no male can possess.”