Seneca Fall and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement by Sally G. Mcmillen
The book covers 50 years of women's activism, from 1840-1890, focusing on four extraordinary figures--Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony. McMillen tells the stories of their lives, how they came to take up the cause of women's rights, the astonishing advances they made during their lifetimes, and the lasting and transformative effects of the work they did.
On the devine heights of human attain-ments, eulogized land worshiped as a hero or saint, we stand alone. In igno-rance, poverty, and vice, as a pauper or criminal, alone we starve or steal; alone we suffer the sneers and rebuffs of our fellows; alone we are hunted andhounded thro dark courts and alleys, in by-ways and highways; alone we standin the judgment seat; alone in the prison cell we lament our crimes and mis-fortunes; alone we expiate them on the gallows. In hours like these we realizethe awful solitude of individual life, its pains, its penalties, its responsibilities;hours in which the youngest and most helpless are thrown on their own re-sources for guidance and consolation. Seeing then that life must ever be amarch and a battle, that each soldier must be equipped for his own protection, it is the height of cruelty to rob the individual of a single natural right (Suzanne M. Marilley, 1996). To throw obstacle in the way of complete education is like putting out theeyes; to deny the rights of property, like cutting off the hands. To deny polit-ical equality is to rob the ostracized of all self-respect; of credit in the mar-ket place; of recompense in the world of work; of a voice among those whomake and administer the law; a choice in the jury before whom they are tried,and in the judge who decides their punishment. Shakespeare’s play of Titusand Andronicus contains a terrible satire on woman’s position in the nineteenthcentury—‘‘Rude men’’ (the play tells us) ‘‘seized the king’s daughter, cut out her tongue, out off her hands, and then bade her go call for water and wash herhands.’’ What a picture of woman’s position. Robbed of her natural rights,handicapped by law and custom at every turn, yet compelled to ﬁght her ownbattles, and in the emergencies of life to fall back on herself for protection. The girl of sixteen, thrown on the world to support herself, to make herown place in society, to resist the temptations that surround her and maintain aspotless integrity, must do all this by native force or superior education (Stanton and Anthony).
Anthony and Lucretia Mott as “flesh-and-blood women,” rather than just “shadow selves” who are made to bear the ideological struggles of both their age and ours. These women were among the most important, effective and astute reformers of the nineteenth century, and we can now more fully appreciate the challenges they faced in their struggles to bring about a more just world.
‘‘Tenth National Woman’s Rights Convention,’’ in Stanton, Anthony, and Gage,eds., History of Woman Suffrage 735
Suzanne M. Marilley, Woman Suffrage and the Origins of Liberal Feminism in the United States, 1820–1920 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996), 55
Stanton and Anthony, ‘‘The Syracuse National Convention,’’ in Stanton, Anthony Gage, eds., History of Woman Suffrage,1 :527, 539.