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Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)

"The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women's emancipation."

"The whole tone of Church teaching in regard to woman is, to the last degree, contemptuous and degrading."

"I have endeavoured to dissipate these religious superstitions from the minds of women, and base their faith on science and reason, where I found for myself at last that peace and comfort I could never find in the Bible and the church."

-- Elizabeth Cady Stanton


Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a social activist, and a leading figure of the early women's rights movement in the United States. With her husband, Henry Stanton and cousin, Gerrit Smith, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was also active in the anti-slavery Abolitionist movement. Stanton had a strong friendship with abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass.

Life Account
Elizabeth Cady was born in Johnstown, New York to Daniel Cady and Margaret Livingston Cady. Daniel Cady was a prominent attorney who served a term in the Congress of the United States and later became a judge. Margaret Livingston was the daughter of Colonel James Livingston, an officer in the American Revolutionary War.

Elizabeth Cady met Henry Brewster Stanton through her early involvement in the temperance and the abolition movements. Henry Stanton was a journalist, an antislavery orator, and, after their marriage, became an attorney. Despite Daniel Cady's reservations, the couple were married in 1840 and had seven carefully spaced children. Cady Stanton loved motherhood and assumed primary responsibility for rearing the children.

She was remembered by her daughter Margaret as cheerful, sunny and indulgent. Stanton took her husband's surname as part of her own, signing herself Elizabeth Cady Stanton or E. Cady Stanton, but refused to be addressed as Mrs. Henry B. Stanton. Feeling that women were individual persons, she asserted that "(t)he custom of calling women Mrs. John This and Mrs. Tom That and colored men Sambo and Zip Coon, is founded on the principle that white men are lords of all."

The Stanton marriage was not entirely without tension and disagreement. Due to employment, travel and financial considerations, husband and wife lived more often apart than together. Friends of the couple found them very similar in temperament and ambition, but quite dissimilar in their views on issues such as women's rights. In 1842, abolitionist reformer Sarah Grimke counseled Elizabeth in a letter: "Henry greatly needs a humble, holy companion and thou needest the same." However, both Stantons appeared to consider their marriage an overall success and the marriage lasted for forty-seven years, ending with Henry's death in 1887. (Baker, pp. 99-113).

Stanton died in 1902 and was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York.

Women's rights movement
Stanton was a great admirer of feminist Lucretia Mott, whom she heard speak at the International Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England in the spring of 1840 while on her honeymoon. Stanton became angry when she couldn't see Mott speak, as women in the audience were required to sit in a roped-off section hidden from the view of the men in attendance.

Stanton and Mott were the primary organizers of the 1848 Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. For this convention, Stanton drafted a Declaration of Sentiments, declaring that men and women are created equal. She also proposed a resolution, that was voted upon and carried, demanding voting rights for women. Stanton went on to write many of the more important documents and speeches of the women's rights movement.

In 1851, Stanton met Susan B. Anthony. They were introduced on a street in Seneca Falls, by mutual acquaintance Amelia Bloomer, also a feminist. Stanton and Anthony were to remain close friends and colleagues for the rest of her life, though unlike Anthony, Stanton wanted to push a broader platform of women's rights than suffrage.

Together, in 1869, they founded the National Woman's Suffrage Association, an organization dedicated to gaining women the right to vote. In 1890, Stanton opposed a merger with the American Woman Suffrage Association, which created a National American Woman Suffrage Association. Despite her opposition, Stanton became its first president (largely due to Susan B. Anthony's support), however she was never popular among more conservative elements of the 'National American'.

Stanton and Anthony also began the women's rights newsletter The Revolution, which included frequent contributions from Stanton. Starting in 1881, Stanton, Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage published the first of three volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage, an anthology of writings about the movement in which they were so prominent. This anthology reached six volumes by various writers in 1922. Stanton was also active internationally, spending a great deal of time in Europe in her later years, and in 1888 she helped prepare for the founding of the International Council of Women.

However, after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (which proposed black suffrage but had neglected female suffrage), and its support by the Equal Rights Association and prominent suffragists such as Lucy Stone, a gulf appeared between the women's rights movement and the move for racial equality. Cady Stanton declared, "I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work for or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman."

In a view different from many modern activists, Stanton believed that abortion was infanticide (The Revolution, I, No. 5 (February 5, 1868), 1). She addressed the issue in an 1873 letter to Julia Ward Howe, recorded in Howe's diary at Harvard University Library, and in editions of the newsletter The Revolution. Stanton wrote, "When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." She suggested that solutions to abortion would be found, at least in part, in the elevation and enfranchisement of women.

Stanton was an outspoken supporter, and speech writer of the 19th century temperance movement, however her views on religion distanced her from the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. She also addressed other issues including the guardianship of children, reformation of divorce laws, and the economic health of the family. She was a strong critic of religion in general and Christianity in particular.

 
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The information on which this page is based has been drawn from research on the Internet. For example, much use has been made of Wikipedia.org, to whom we are greatly indebted. Since the information recording process at Wikipedia is prone to changes in the data, please check at Wikipedia for current information. If you find something on this page to be in error, please contact us.
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