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 whole.

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 them all.

Delegates to the World's Abolition Convention in 1840:
Mary Grew
Abby Kimber
Lucretia Mott
Elizabeth Neal
Ann Green Phillips
Sarah Pugh
Abby Southwick
Emily Winslow

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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