Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1816 ~ 1902

 

Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the daughter of Judge Daniel Cady, and Margaret Livingston Cady, and was born November 12, 1816, in Johnstown, New York, not far from Albany. A noted Yankee once said that his chief ambition was to become more noted than his native town. Whether this was Mrs. Stanton's ambition or not, she has lived to see her historic birthplace shrink into mere local repute while she herself has been quoted, ridiculed, abused and extolled into national fame.

She took the course in the academy in Johnstown and then went to Mrs. Emma Willard's Seminary in Troy, New York, where she was graduated in 1832. In the office of her father, Mrs. Stanton first became acquainted with the legal disabilities of women under the old common law, and she early learned to rebel against the inequity of law, which seemed to her made only for men. When really a child she even went so far as to hunt up unjust laws with the aid of the students in her father's office and was preparing to cut the obnoxious clauses out of the books supposing that that would put an end to them, when she was informed that the abolition of inequitable laws could not be thus simply achieved But she devoted the rest of her life in an effort toward the practical solution of women's rights. She has said that her life in this village seminary was made dreary in her disappointment and sorrow in not being a boy, and her chagrin was great when she found herself unable to enter Union College, where her brother was graduated just before his death.

In 1837, in her twenty-fourth year, while on a visit to her distinguished cousin, Gerrit Smith, at Peterboro, in the central part of New York State, she made the acquaintance of Henry Brewster Stanton, a fervid young orator, who had won distinction in the anti-slavery movement, and in 1840 they were married. They immediately set sail for Europe, the voyage, however, being undertaken not merely for pleasure and sightseeing, but that Mr. Stanton might fulfill the mission of delegate to the World's Anti-Slavery Convention, to be held in London, in 1840.

There Mrs. Stanton met Lucretia Mott and learned that there were others who felt the yoke women were bearing as well as herself. It was with Mrs. Mott that she signed the first call for a woman's rights convention and when she was once asked, "What most impressed you in Europe?" she replied, "Lucretia Mott." Their friendship never waned, and they worked together for reform all the long years after that meeting.

Mrs. Stanton and her husband removed to Seneca Falls, New York, and it was in that town, on the 19th and 20th of July, 1848, in the Wesleyan Chapel that the first assemblage known to history as a woman's rights convention was held. Mrs. Stanton was the chief agent in calling that convention. She received and cared for the visitors; she wrote the resolutions of declaration and aims, and she had the satisfaction of knowing that the convention, ridiculed throughout the Union, was the starting point of the woman's rights movement, which is now no longer a subject of ridicule. Judge Cady, hearing that his daughter was the author of the audacious resolution, "That it is the duty of the women of this country to secure for themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise," imagined that she had gone crazy, and he journeyed from Johnstown to Seneca Falls, to learn whether or not her brilliant mind had lost its balance. He tried to reason her out of her position but she remained unshaken in her faith that her position was right. The practice of going before a legislature to present the claim of woman's cause has become quite common, but in the early days of Mrs. Stanton's career it was considered unusual and sensational. And yet, with the single exception of Mrs. Lucy Stone, a noble and gifted woman, to whom her country-women owe affectionate gratitude, not merely for eloquence that charmed thousands of ears, but for her practical efforts in abolishing laws oppressive to her sex, I believe that Mrs. Stan-ton appeared oftener before state legislatures than any of her co-laborers. She repeatedly addressed the legislature of New York at Albany and on these occasions was always honored by the presence of a brilliant audience, and never failed to speak with dignity and ability. In 1854, when she first addressed the New York legislature on the rights of married women, she said, "Yes, gentlemen, we the daughters of the Revolutionary heroes of '76, demand at your hands the redress of our grievances, a revision of your state constitution and a new code of laws." At the close of her grand and glowing argument, a lawyer who had listened to it and who knew and revered Mrs. Stanton's father, shook hands with the orator and said, "Madam, it was as fine a production as if it had been made and pronounced by Judge Cady, himself." This, to the daughter's ears, was sufficiently high praise.

In 1867 she spoke before the legislature and Constitutional Convention of New York, maintaining that during the revision of its constitution the state was resolved into its original elements and that citizens of both sexes therefore had a right to vote for members of the convention. In Kansas, in 1867, and Michigan, in 1874, when those states were submitting the woman suffrage question to the people, she canvassed the state and did heroic work in the cause. From 1855 to 1865 she served as president of the national committee of the suffrage party. In 1863 she was president of the Woman's Loyal League. Until 1890 she was president of the National Woman's Suffrage Association. In 1868 she was a candidate for Congress in eighth congressional district of New York and in her address to the electors of the district she announced her creed to be: "Free speech, free press, free men and free trade." In 1868, the Revolution was started in New York City and Mrs. Stanton became the editor, assisted by Parker Pillsbury. She is joint author with Miss Susan B. Anthony of the "History of Woman Suffrage."

Religious and worshipful by temperament, she cast off in her later life the superstition of her earlier, but she never lost her childhood's faith in good, and her last work was the "Woman's Bible," a unique revision of the Scriptures from the standpoint of women's recognition. She is said to have declared that she would willingly give her body to be burned for the sake of seeing her sex enfranchised, and when this desire of her heart is gratified, her name will be gratefully remembered by those who fought for the emancipation of womankind.

Mrs. Stanton died in New York, October 26, 1902. Her family consists of five sons and two daughters, all of whom are gifted.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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