The Beginning Women’s Rights
July 19, 1848
1. Declaration of Sentiments
As apropos now as ever, but especially with respect to Professional Equity for Chaplains--as powerful statement for equality and freedom as any on earth.
Though Frances Wright, Ernestine Rose, and others had championed the cause of woman's rights early in the century, the immediate origin of the woman's rights movement of the mid century was in the anti-slavery crusade. When at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, in 1840, a group of American women delegates found themselves excluded, they determined that the cause of emancipation affected them as well as slaves. The Seneca Falls Convention was the first of its kind ever held.
~ ~ ~
in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the
family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from
that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and
of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind
requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.
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; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving
their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is
the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist
upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such
principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most
likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should
not be changed for light and transient causes;
and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed
to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the
forms to which they are accustomed. But
when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same
object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their
duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future
security. Such has been the patient
sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity
which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.
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.
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.
deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby
leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed
her on all sides.
has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.
has made her, morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes
with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband.
In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her
husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master--the law giving
him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement.
has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes, and in
case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given, as
to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women-the law, in all cases, going
upon a false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his
depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single, and the owner of
property, he has taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only
when her property can be made profitable to it.
has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is
permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration.
He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction which he
considers most honorable to himself. As
a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.
has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges
being closed against her.
allows her in Church, as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming
Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some
exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.
has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of
morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from
society, are not only tolerated, but deemed of little account in man.
has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to
assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and to
has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own
powers, to lessen her self-respect and to make her willing to lead a dependent
and abject life.
in view of this entire disfranchisement 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 the United States.
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.
The great precept of nature is conceded to be, that “man shall pursue his own
true and substantial happiness.” Blackstone
in his Commentaries remarks, that this law of Nature being coeval with mankind,
and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other.
It is binding over all the globe, in all countries and at all times;
no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this, and such of them
as are valid, derive all their force, and all their validity, and all their
authority, mediately and immediately, from this original;
That all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in society as
her conscience shall dictate, or which place her in a position inferior to that
of man, are contrary to the great precept of nature, and therefore of no force
That woman is man’s equal--was intended to be so by the Creator, and the
highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such.
That the women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws
under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation by
declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor their ignorance,
by asserting that they have all the rights they want.
That inasmuch as man, while claiming for himself intellectual superiority, does
accord to woman moral superiority, it is pre-eminently his duty to encourage her
to speak and teach, as she has an opportunity, in all religious assemblies.
That the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of behavior that is
required of woman in the social state, should also be required of man, and
transgressions should be visited with equal severity on both man and woman.
That the objection and impropriety, which is so against woman when she add
audience, comes with a very those who encourage, by their;
appearance on the stage, in t in feats of the circus.
That woman has satisfied in the circumscribe limits which corrupt customs and a
perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is
time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned
That it is the duty of women of this country to secure to themselves their
sacred right to the elective franchise.
That the equality of human rights results necessarily from the fact of the
identity of the race in capabilities and responsibilities.
That the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and untiring
efforts of both men and women, for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit,
and for the securing to women an equal participation with men in the various
trades, professions, and commerce.
therefore, That, being invested by
the Creator with the same capabilities, and the same consciousness of
responsibility for their exercise, it is demonstrably the right and duty of
woman, equally with man, to promote every righteous cause by every righteous
means; and especially in regard to
the great subjects of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to
participate with her brother in teaching them, both in private and in public, by
writing and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be used, and in any
assemblies proper to be held; and
this being a self-evident truth growing out of the divinely implanted principles
of human nature, any custom or authority adverse to it, whether modern or
wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to be regarded as a self-evident
falsehood, and at war with mankind.
The History of Woman Suffrage, ed. by
E. C. Stanton, S. B. Anthony and M. J. Gage, Vol. I, p. 70 ff.
See also: E. A. Hecker, Short
History of Women's Rights; B.
A. Rembaugh, The Political Status of Women in the United States; T. Stanton and H. S. Baltch, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, A. D.
Hallowell, Life and Letters of James and Lucretia Mott;
K. Anthony, Margaret
Fuller; T. V. Smith, The
American Philosophy of Equality.