Story behind the “Declaration of Sentiments”

During the summer of 1848 abolitionist Lucretia Mott left her home in Philadelphia and headed for upstate New York to attend a Quaker meeting and visit her pregnant sister, Martha Coffin Wright. While in the area, both Mott and Wright attended a tea party in Seneca Falls. Their friend Jane Hunt hosted the party. Invitations were also extended to Hunt’s neighbors, Mary Ann M’Clintock and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. By the end of the tea, the group was planning a meeting for women’s rights. They published a notice in local papers reporting: “a Convention to discuss the social, civil, and religions condition of women.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton volunteered to write an outline for their protest statement, calling it a Declaration of Sentiments. Stanton and M’Clintock, then, drafted the document, from M’Clintock’s mahogany tea table. The Declaration of Sentiments set the stage for their convening.

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.

Story behind “The Solitude of Self”

The struggle for woman suffrage lasted almost a century. The 1848 Woman’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, New York, initiated public discussion of votes for women, and serious campaigning began with the founding in 1869 of two original (and competing) suffrage organizations—the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association. The two groups joined forces in 1890 to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). NAWSA campaigned diligently for the vote in a variety of ways but did not achieve success until the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. Elizabeth Cady Stanton served for twenty years as the president of the National Woman Suffrage Association and as the first president of NAWSA. In 1892, she resigned at age 77. Her resignation speech, “The Solitude of Self,” eloquently articulated the arguments for the equality of women that she had spent her adult life promoting.

Stanton’s death

Stanton died of heart failure at her home in New York City on October 26, 1902, 18 years before women were granted the right to vote in the United States. She was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City, the grave upon which there is a monument for her and her husband.

True to form, she wanted her brain to be donated to science upon her death to debunk claims that the mass of men’s brains made them smarter than women. Her children, however, didn’t carry out her wish.

Though she never gained the right to vote in her lifetime, Stanton left behind a legion of feminist crusaders who carried her torch and ensured her decades-long struggle wasn’t in vain.

Almost two decades after her death, Stanton’s vision finally came true with the passing of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920, which guaranteed American women the right to vote.