Elizabeth Cady Stanton


Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an inspirational activist who fought strongly for women’s rights and the abolitionist movement. Born the daughter of a court judge, Elizabeth was fascinated with learning about the law, and she soon discovered the disparity between freedoms for men and women, especially married women. Unlike many girls of that time, Stanton was educated at Johnstown Academy, where she won several academic awards and honors. Her achievements, however, mattered little once she reached college age, when she was forced to attend the Troy Female Seminary rather than the all-male Union College. While at the school, she heard several revivalist speakers who thoroughly confused and frightened her; later, Stanton left Christianity for a life of logic and ethics.

Once out of school, Elizabeth met and married Henry Stanton, a journalist with whom she worked during her involvement in the early abolitionist movement. They honeymooned in Europe before returning to Boston, where Henry studied law under Stanton’s father. Henry, like his father-in-law, disagreed with his wife’s aims of women’s suffrage, and the issue caused tension throughout their marriage. Regardless, their life together was a happy one. In 1847, the Stantons moved to Seneca Falls, where Elizabeth found herself bored by the lack of intellectual activities and companions. In order to combat this dissatisfaction, she became more involved in the community, and by 1848 she had begun to take the first major steps toward her goal of gender equality.

Elizabeth had long been an admirer and friend of Lucretia Mott, a profoundly abolitionist Quaker women, and during the International Anti-Slavery Convention in London, she was disgusted by the way Mott and other women in attendance had been banished from the main viewing session despite their assistance in the movement. In 1848, she joined Mott, her sister, and several other women at Seneca Falls, where they held the first women’s rights convention. During the meeting, Elizabeth read aloud form her Declaration of Sentiments, proclaiming the equal rights of men and women. She later went on to make guest appearances at several other conventions, and in 1851, she was introduced to Susan B. Anthony. After the Civil War, the two women protested the new amendments allowing black men to vote, insisting that the law be edited to include women as well. Nonetheless, the amendments remained unchanged, and the suffrage movement divided into two camps—those who, like Stanton, wanted “all or nothing,” and those who were more conservative in their approach.

Later, Stanton, Anthony, and others began to espouse the idea that the 14th and 15th Amendments, which allowed all citizens, regardless of race, to vote in elections, extended to women as well. Rather than try to change state legislature, they instead marched to the polls and demanded a ballot. Despite these efforts, however, women would not be given the right to vote for another fifty years. Because Elizabeth’s plans for equality were not limited to suffrage, she began to distance herself from other leaders of the movement, condemning sexism in Christianity and supporting divorce, property, and employment rights for women, as well as interracial marriage. Stanton also helped pass the “Woman’s Property Bill,” and she was active internationally, helping prepare for the founding of the International Council of Women. In time, the liberal National Woman’s Suffrage Association merged with the more conservative and religious American Woman Suffrage Association, and despite her initial objections, Stanton became president of the group. Ten years before her death, Stanton finally had the opportunity to bring her argument before the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, where her speech moved several listeners. Elizabeth passed away in 1902, eighteen years before women were finally granted the right to vote.

Key events during the life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton:

Graduated from Johnstown Academy.
Married Henry Brewster Stanton.
Moved to Seneca Falls.
First Women's Convention at Seneca Falls.
Met Susan B. Anthony.
Founded the Woman's State Temperance Society.
Passage of the 14th Amendment.
Passage of the 15th Amendment.
Helped pass the 'Woman's Property Bill.'
Appealed to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary for women's rights.
Women's suffrage was granted in the United States.

Other Resources

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Book Links
Elizabeth Cady Stanton in  Heroes of Progress in America  by  Charles Morris

Short Biography
Lucretia Mott Influential Quaker leader who advocated the rights of women. Held relatively conservative views among early feminists.
Susan B. Anthony Leader of the female suffrage and temperence movements who traveled widely and became a full time advocate.
William Lloyd Garrison Prominent abolitionist, well-known as the publisher of the Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper.
John Brown Radical abolitionist who condoned violence in order to abolish slavery. Led a raid on the armory in Harper's Ferry.