By Cynthia Richie Terrell
on July 19, 2019
Happy 171st Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Women's Convention,
Today marks the 171st anniversary of a milestone in the conversation about women's
equality in the United States. According to this post
from the National Park Service the conversation was heated - matching the outside temps - as participants debated competing strategies to advance women's
equality. Was it best to push for full voting rights or pursue other tactics. In many respects this important dialogue about strategy continues. I believe that we owe a debt to those early advocates to continue to think outside the box about what is possible and what is necessary:
The Declaration of Sentiments was a clarion call in celebration of women’s worthiness—naming their right not be subjugated. Most prominent among the critiques Stanton advanced were: women’s inferior legal status, including lack of suffrage rights (which was true except both for some local elections and in New Jersey between 1790 and 1807); economic as well as physical subordination; and limited opportunities for divorce (including lack of child custody protections). These offences were particularly ironic considering the expansive civic wartime roles women performed, including their contributions to the nation’s independence—by working as nurses and cooks, spies, and, even, fundraisers.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote the Declaration of Sentiments to dramatize the denied citizenship claims of elite women during a period when the early republic’s founding documents privileged white propertied males. The document has long been recognized for the sharp critique she made of gender inequality in the U.S. Yet, her words also obscured significant differences in the lived experiences of women across racial, class, and regional lines. For example, at the very moment Stanton wrote the Declaration of Sentiments, Native Americans were being displaced to create space for westward expansion. This does not mean they had no relationship to the women’s rights movement. Rather, matrilineal Native societies inspired women’s rights advocates who referenced them in order to claim that women in the U.S. deserved greater autonomy. Additionally, African Americans in New York were but a mere generation removed from slavery. There were black women advocates of the women’s rights movement, but there is no evidence that they were invited to Seneca Falls. Frederick Douglass played a prominent role in the proceedings. Making clear these distinctions creates a space to better understand both the inequalities that existed between women at the time of Stanton’s call for women’s rights and the intellectual tensions that existed in the movement during some of its earliest days. Yet, the Declaration of Sentiments as an idea created an important space for articulating the rights owed to women, one embraced by many now in a larger project of gender equality.
RW interns & staff: Allison Mackenzie, Marilyn Harbert, Gilda Geist, & Courtney Lamendola - not pictured is Andrea Rebolledo
RepresentWomen staff and interns have been working on an incredible array of projects including Courtney's work on finalizing the 2019 Gender Parity Index, Marilyn's work on writing programs to track PAC & donor support for female candidates, Andrea's work on international women's representation
, Allison's work on outreach to our supporters, and Gilda's writing on various topics. Please visit the RepresentWomen page on Medium
to get the latest takes on women's representation
including this terrific piece about the use of gender categories - also known as quotas - for the Emmys
and a piece on Dr Joan Perry's loss in the NC primary.
I am grateful for their incredible work.
Here are some graphics that RepresentWomen interns have created - please feel encouraged to share:
The unveiling ceremony was held in the Capitol Rotunda on February 15, 1921, the 101st anniversary of the birth of Susan B. Anthony, and was attended by representatives of over 70 women's organizations. The Committee authorized the installation of the monument in the Crypt, where it remained on continuous display. In accordance with House Concurrent Resolution 216, which was passed by the Congress in September 1996, the sculpture was relocated to the Rotunda in May 1997.
This statue of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B Anthony
, created by Adelaide Johnson, sits in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. There is some question about why there is one uncarved face but I like to think that it is a recognition of the thousands of nameless women's
equality advocates of the past, present, & future who deserve our respect and admiration.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), president of the National Woman Suffrage Association from 1865 to 1893; author of the woman's bill of rights, which she read at the Seneca Falls, New York, convention in 1848; first to demand the vote for women.
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), abolitionist, temperance advocate, and later president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, who joined with Stanton in 1851 to promote woman suffrage; proposed the constitutional amendment passed many years after her death.
Lucretia Mott (1793-1880), Quaker reformer and preacher, who worked for abolition, peace, and equality for women in jobs and education; organizer of the 1848 Seneca Falls, New York, convention, which launched the women's rights movement.
I am so grateful for the work that you are all doing and look forward to continuing the important dialogue about the best collection of strategies to advance women's representation and equality in the United States.
P.S. The 2017 RepresentWomen intern team made this terrific video
about the Declaration of Sentiments
And thanks to the terrific allies who attended RepresentWomen's Summer Fete last night at the beautiful home of RW board member extraordinaire Mehrnaz Teymourian
Jennifer Barrett, Sheila Krumholz, Ann Greiner, Katie Sebastian, Amalia Perez, Mamie Bittner
And of course we had cake to celebrate the Seneca anniversary