Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Will Not Obey

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Born this day in 1815

There are certain natural rights as inalienable to civilization as are the rights of air and motion to the savage in the wilderness. The Prejudice against color, of which we hear so much, is no stronger than that against sex. It is produced by the same cause, and manifested very much in the same way. The Negro's skin and the woman's sex are both prima facie evidence that they were intended to be in subjection to the white Saxon man.
My first and oldest friend in Philly aptly shares a birthday with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was said to be the most famous freethinking woman of her day. Long a proponent of women's rights and suffrage, she insisted that the word "obey" be removed from the ceremony when she wed. Of Stanton, it was also said:
She studied law under her father, who later became a New York Supreme Court judge. During this period she became a strong advocate of women's rights.

In 1840 Elizabeth married the lawyer, Henry Bewster Stanton. The couple both became active members of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Later that year, Stanton and Lucretia Mott, travelled to London as delegates to the World Anti-Slavery Convention. Both women were furious when they, like the British women at the convention, were refused permission to speak at the meeting. Stanton later recalled: "We resolved to hold a convention as soon as we returned home, and form a society to advocate the rights of women."

However, it was not until 1848 that Stanton and Lucretia Mott organised the Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. Stanton's resolution that it was "the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves the sacred right to the elective franchise" was passed, and this became the focus of the group's campaign over the next few years.

In 1866 Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone established the American Equal Rights Association.
It is also noteworthy that the words in the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, in finally granting woman suffrage, were written by Ms. Stanton. Sad to say, the Amendment was passed 18 years after her death in 1902. My friend, a lawyer who shares a birthday with Stanton, is surely the modern day version of the woman who tirelessly supported women's rights in so many ways.

For more on this fascinating woman, see Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

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