Today In History | July 19 | First Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848

July 19th

In 1848 the Women’s Rights Convention was held at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York from July 19 to July 20 to address women’s suffrage.

The convention was organized by five women: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Mary M’Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright and Jane Hunt. 

The Five Organizers

The five organizers Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Mary M’Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright and Jane Hunt were all abolitionists, anti-slavery and women’s rights activists in their respective communities. Each with the same determination to obtain women’s rights. 

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the lead organizer of the Seneca Falls Convention. She studied at Troy Female Seminary. 

Lucretia Mott

Lucretia Mott was a Quaker, abolitionist and fierce anti-slavery and women’s rights activist. Mott and Stanton met previously in 1840 with their husbands at the World Anti-Slavery Convention. 

Mary M’Clintock

Mary M’Clintock was an anti-slavery, abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Before Seneca Falls, M’Clintock and Mott organized the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. 

Martha Coffin Wright

Martha Coffin Wright, the sister of Lucretia Mott, was an abolitionist who took part in the Underground Railroad. 

Jane Hunt

Jane Hunt, an extended family member of M’Clintock, was a women’s rights activist. 

Convention announcement

8 years after being withheld from partaking in the World Anti-Slavery Convention, Stanton and Mott gathered with three other women’s rights activists to draft an announcement for the convention. 

“A convention to discuss the social, civil and religious conditions and rights of women” 

NPS

Declaration of Sentiments

The women, mainly Elizabeth Stanton,  wrote a Declaration of Sentiments

Similar to the Declaration of Independence, which outlines America’s main principles, ideas, and laws and in addition to the rights and freedom that are granted to Americans, the Declaration of Sentiments takes a similar format. 

Using one of the Declaration of Independence’s main lines: 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” 

National Archives

Declaration of Sentiments:

“We hold these truths to be self- evident that all men and women are created equal.”

NPS

Seneca Falls

Seneca Falls was the first women’s rights convention in the United States. 

The convention was mainly open to all, with the exception of the first day being exclusively for men. Nearly 300 people, the majority being residents, gathered to discuss women’s rights, specifically the lack thereof.

The Cause

With no access to education, property or equal wages and roles, women were largely dependent on their husbands or men of the household. Women were deemed lesser than in nearly all aspects. Some were given menial roles in church or at work. Others like Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott were completely excluded from partaking in historical events, like the World Anti Slavery Convention, merely because of their gender.

Frustrated with the lack of fair and equal treatment, women across the world began to take a firm stand in the 1800’s, advocating for women’s suffrage. 

The Goal

The main objective of the convention was to pass and address the eleven resolutions which listed women’s injustices and demands. Nearly all resolutions paused unanimously except the ninth one which advocated for women’s right to vote. Speeches by Frederick Douglas and lead organizer Stanton ultimately helped gather all the necessary votes, not before losing some support from convention members. 

The Impact

The Seneca Falls Convention was a key turning point in the women’s suffrage movement and women’s history. Without the courage of Stanton, Mott, M’Clintock, Wright, Hunt, and the 300 people who attended the convention, who knows where women would be today.


Sources:

Declaration of Independence: National Archives

Seneca Falls Convention. History

The Declaration of Sentiments. National Park Service

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