Widely credited as one of the founding geniuses of the women’s rights movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton used her brilliance, insightfulness, and eloquence to advocate for many important issues. In addition to being one of the first women’s rights activists, she was also a dedicated abolitionist, and advocated in favor of temperance.
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Stanton enjoyed a formal education at Johnstown Academy, where she worked hard to excel in Greek, Latin, and mathematics. The child of a judge, she went on to obtain the finest education then available to women at Troy Female Seminary. A visit to her cousin, abolitionist Gerrit Smith, in Peterboro, New York, helped foster her strong anti-slavery sentiments.
At her insistence, when she married abolitionist Henry Stanton, the word “obey” was omitted from the ceremony. Their honeymoon journey was to the great World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840. After the women delegates were denied seats at that convention, Stanton became convinced that women should hold a convention demanding their own rights. This decision was delayed until her move to Seneca Falls, where she was isolated and increasingly exhausted by a growing family. Finally in July, 1848, she met with Lucretia Mott and three other Quaker women in nearby Waterloo, New York. Together they issued the call for the first woman’s rights convention.
Stanton drafted the Seneca Falls Convention’s Declaration of Sentiments, including the historic words “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal‚” She continued to argue forcefully for the ballot, a radical demand opposed by her husband and even Mrs. Mott. Soon thereafter, she met Susan B. Anthony and they formed what would be a lifelong partnership devoted to the cause. Among their earliest targets were laws that discriminated against married women, denying them the right to hold property, or wages, or guardianship of their children.
A prolific author whose works included Solitude of Self and The Woman’s Bible, Stanton once wrote that “The prolonged slavery of woman is the darkest page in human history.”