Part of the American
History & Genealogy Project
History of Woman's Suffrage Organization
Harriet Taylor Upton
It is seldom that there is a time when a
single reform question alone is before the people. There are
often many, and it is not until the agitation is over and the
question settled that we realize they were all a part of a great
Women, as well as men, were interested
in the questions which led up to the war. Northern women took
part in the agitation for the abolition of slavery and were
among the best and most convincing speakers.
The name of Abby Kelly Foster was known
throughout the North, as was that of Lucretia Mott. It was but
natural when the World's Abolition Convention was called in
London in 1840 that women should be elected delegates to that
body. Lucretia Mott, a Quaker preacher of refinement, culture,
brain power and influence, was one of these delegates. Henry
Stanton, another delegate, had brought with him his bride,
Elizabeth Cady, and as these two, with the other women, repaired
to the gallery, and there listened to the debates on the
question in which they were so vitally interested, they grew
more and more incensed each day.
William Lloyd Garrison, probably the
most powerful man of the Abolition movement, was delayed in
transit, and when he arrived and found that the women delegates
had been denied seats he refused to take his place on the floor.
He knew the part they had played in the abolition cause, and he
believed in justice and equality for all human beings, women as
well as slaves.
The action of the men delegates showed
clearly to Mrs. Mott and Mrs. Stanton the place the world set
apart for them, and they resolved that, upon their return to
America, they would make a public demand for the proper
recognition of women.
There were then no such easy ways of
traveling or communication as there are now. Mrs. Mott's
attention was still on the slave, and Mrs. Stanton's on her
little family, whose members came close together, and it was not
till eight years later, in 1848, that they carried out their
determination and called the first woman's rights convention at
Seneca Falls, Mrs. Stanton's home. This convention, as is
generally supposed, was not called for the consideration of
political rights. In fact, at that time it was the least thought
of, personal rights, property rights, religious rights were
demanded. In fact, there was much opposition to including
political rights, and but for Elizabeth Cady Stanton that clause
would have been left out.
The storm of ridicule which burst forth
as soon as these reports were issued by the press frightened
many of the women, but a few held fast. To their bravery,
foresight and conviction is due the fact that today women vote
in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Washington upon exactly
the same terms as men vote. They vote for all officers, from the
lowest to the president, and can hold any office to which they
can be elected.
Susan B. Anthony did not attend that
convention; in fact, she rather doubted the wisdom of calling
it. However, she seldom missed another throughout her long life,
her last being at Baltimore in 1906. During all those years she
gave her life to the political enfranchisement of women. In the
early days, Mrs. Stanton not being able to leave her family.
Miss Anthony would go to her home, help with the work and the
care of her babies, while she wrote an argument suitable for the
legislators, and then, armed with this. Miss Anthony would
appear before that legislature and make her demands. In this way
these two women caused to be changed most of the old New York
laws under which women were not much more than chattels.
The friendship between Mrs. Stanton and
Miss Anthony was one of the most beautiful, strongest and purest
of which history writes. Together they worked for a great cause
with perfect love and understanding for nearly fifty years. They
supplemented each other, and their joint work was powerful.
A little later than the 1848 convention
Lucy Stone, a gentle, strong, able, conscientious woman, who had
completed a course of study at Oberlin, began to agitate the
question of woman's rights, and it was under her direction that
a convention was called in March, 1850. Lucy Stone was not at
all like Mrs. Stanton in character, except they were both
radicals, but Lucy Stone exercised more influence among
progressive women of New England than any woman of her time.
Their memory is still greatly cherished. These two women,
together with Miss Anthony, were the real leaders of the women
suffragists, and this trinity is the one which married women
should remember, since through them they procured their property
rights. To these women should the 6,000,000 working women turn
with thankful hearts, since they were the first to demand equal
pay for equal work.
Susan B. Anthony was the best known of
the three; in fact, she was the figure of her century. Born of
well-to-do parents, well educated, capable, loving and
charitable to a fault, optimistic and generous, self-effacing,
of undoubted will, she saw only a sex in a position in which it
could not develop itself, and she fought for its freedom. No one
woman had as many friends as she had, because no one woman had
ever loved so many people as she had. She was not an orator in
its common sense, and yet probably she, in her lifetime,
addressed more people than any other American woman. She was at
ease with the lowest and the highest, and worked for fifty years
without salary, that the women of the United States might have a
weapon to fight their own battle. She was the greatest woman of
Delegates to the World's Abolition
Convention in 1840:
Ann Green Phillips
Source: The Part Taken by Women in
American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle
Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.