1848 First Woman's Rights Convention ends
the Wesleyan chapel in Seneca Falls, New York, the Woman's Rights
Convention--the first of its kind ever held in the United States--began
the previous day with almost two hundred women in attendance. The
convention was organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
address to the convention), two Quakers who met at the 1840 World
Antislavery Convention held in London.
As women, Mott and Stanton were barred from the convention floor,
and the common indignation that this aroused in both of them was the
impetus for their founding woman's rights movement in the United States.
In 1848, at Stanton's home near Seneca Falls, the two women, working
with Martha Wright, Mary Ann McClintock, and Jane Hunt, sent out a
call for a women's conference to be held at Seneca Falls beginning
on July 19.
The first day of the
convention was for women only, but on the second day men were invited
to attend--and some forty do, including famous African-American abolitionist
Frederick Douglass. Also on July 20, the convention adopts the "Declaration
of Sentiments and Grievances," a text modeled on the Declaration of
Independence. It enumerates the ways in which men have oppressed women
in America. Next, the convention adopts the "Resolutions," which specifically
call for full and equal rights for women, including the right to vote.
The first Woman's Rights Convention
would be followed two weeks later by an even larger meeting in Rochester,
New York. Thereafter, national woman's rights conventions would be
held annually, providing an important focus for the growing woman
THE WOMEN'S DECLARATION OF SENTIMENTS ^top^
THE US DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE:
|DECLARATION OF RIGHTS AND SENTIMENTS.
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one
portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth
a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied,
but one to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them,
a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should
declare the causes that impel them to such a course.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are
created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted,
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends,
it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to
it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying
its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such
form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and
Prudence, indeed, will
dictate that governments long established should not be changed for
light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown
that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable,
than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they were
But when a long train
of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces
a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty
to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their
future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women
under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains
them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.
The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations
on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment
of an absolute tyranny over her.
To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the
He has compelled
her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.
He has withheld from her rights which
are given to the most ignorant and degraded men - both natives and
Having deprived her
of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby
leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he
has oppressed her on all sides.
He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
He has taken from her all right in
property, even to the wages she earns.
He has made her, morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit
many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of
In the covenant of
marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he
becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master -- the law giving
him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement.
He has so framed the laws of divorce,
as to what shall be the proper causes of divorce; in case of separation,
to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given; as to be
wholly regardless of the happiness of women -- the law, in all cases,
going upon a false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving
all power into his hands.
depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single and the
owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government which
recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it.
He has monopolized nearly all the profitable
employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives
but a scanty remuneration.
against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction, which he considers
most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or
law, she is not known.
He has denied
her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education -- all colleges
being closed against her.
her in Church, as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming
Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with
some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the
He has created a false
public sentiment, by giving to the world a different code of morals
for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women
from society, are not only tolerated but deemed of little account
He has usurped the prerogative
of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere
of action, when that belongs to her conscience and to her God.
He has endeavored, in every way that
he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her
self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject
Now, in view of this entire
disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social
and religious degradation,
-- in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do
feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of
their most sacred rights,
we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and
privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States.
In entering upon the great work before
us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation,
but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect
We shall employ agents,
circulate tracts, petition the state and national legislatures, and
endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf.
We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions,
embracing every part of the country.
Firmly relying upon the final triumph of the Right and the True, we
do this day affix our signatures to this declaration.
Cady Stanton, Eunice Newton Foote, Mary Ann McClintock, Martha
C. Wright, Jane C. Hunt, Amy Post, Catharine A. F. Stebbins, Mary
H. Hallowell, Charlotte Woodward, Sarah Hallowell, Richard P Hunt,
Samuel D. Tilman,
Elisha Foote, Frederick Douglass, Elias J. Doty, James Mott, Thomas
This Declaration was unanimously adopted and signed by 32 men and
| IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776. THE UNANIMOUS
DECLARATION OF THE THIRTEEN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.|
WHEN, in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one
People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with
another, and to assume, among the Powers of the Earth, the separate
and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's GOD
entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires
that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation.
We hold these Truths to be self-evident,
that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR,
with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty,
and the Pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these Rights, Governments
are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent
of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive
of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish
it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such
Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall
seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate, that Governments long established,
should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly
all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer,
while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing
the Forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably
the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism,
it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government,
and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been
the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity
which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.
The History of the present King of
Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all
having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over
To prove this, let
Facts be submitted to a candid World.
HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary
for the public Good. HE has forbidden
his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless
suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and
when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
HE has refused to pass other Laws for
the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People
would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a
Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyranny only.
HE has called together Legislative
Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository
of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into
Compliance with his Measures.
HE has dissolved Representative Houses
repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the
Rights of the People.
HE has refused for a long Time, after
such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative
Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at
large for their exercise; the State remaining, in the mean Time, exposed
to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and Convulsions within.
HE has endeavoured to prevent the Population
of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization
of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations
hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
HE has obstructed the Administration
of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary
HE has made Judges dependent on his
Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment
of their Salaries.
HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices,
and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat
out their Substance.
HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace,
Standing Armies, without the Consent of our Legislatures.
HE has affected to render the Military independent
of and superior to the Civil Power.
HE has combined with others to subject us
to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged
by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us: FOR protecting
them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they
should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: FOR cutting off
our Trade with all Parts of the World: FOR imposing Taxes on us without
our Consent: FOR depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial
by Jury: FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended
Offences: FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring
Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging
its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument
for introducing the same absolute Rule into these Colonies: FOR taking
away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering
fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: FOR suspending our own
Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate
for us in all Cases whatsoever.
HE has abdicated Government here, by
declaring us out of his Protection, and waging War against us.
HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged
our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.
HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries
to complete the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun
with Circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in
the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized
HE has constrained our Fellow-Citizens,
taken Captive on the high Seas, to bear Arms against their Country,
to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall
themselves by their Hands.
HE has excited domestic Insurrections
amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our
Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare,
is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes, and Conditions.
IN every Stage of these Oppressions
we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated
Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose
Character is thus marked by every Act which may define a Tyrant, is
unfit to be the Ruler of a free People. NOR have we been wanting in
Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them, from Time
to Time, of Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable
Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of
our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native
Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of
our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which would inevitably
interrupt our Connexions and Correspondence. They too have been deaf
to the Voice of Justice and of Consanguinity. We must, therefore,
acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold
them, as we hold the Rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
WE, therefore, the Representatives
of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS Assembled, appealing
to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions,
do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies,
solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and
of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved
from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connexion
between them and the State of Great-Britain, is, and ought to be,
totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have
full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish
Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES
may of Right do.
And for the Support of this Declaration,
with a firm Reliance on the Protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE, we mutually
pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honour
Whereas the great precept of nature is conceded to be, "that man shall
pursue his own true and substantial happiness." Blackstone, in his
Commentaries, remarks, that this law of Nature being coeval with mankind,
and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to
any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and
at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this,
and such of them as are valid, derive all their force, and all their
validity, and all their authority, mediately and immediately, from
this original; therefore,
That such laws as conflict, in any way, with the true and substantial
happiness of woman, are contrary to the great precept of nature, and
of no validity; for this is "superior in obligation to any other."
Resolved, That all laws which
prevent woman from occupying such a station in society as her conscience
shall dictate, or which place her in a position inferior to that of
man, are contrary to the great precept of nature, and therefore of
no force or authority.
That woman is man's equal - was intended to be so by the Creator -
and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized
as such. Resolved, That the women of this country ought to be enlightened
in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer
publish their degradation, by declaring themselves satisfied with
their present position, nor their ignorance, by asserting that they
have all the rights they want.
Resolved, That inasmuch as man, while claiming for himself intellectual
superiority, does accord to woman moral superiority, it is pre-eminently
his duty to encourage her to speak, and teach, as she has an opportunity,
in all religious assemblies.
That the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of behavior,
that is required of woman in the social state, should also be required
of man, and the same transgressions should be visited with equal severity
on both man and woman.
That the objection of indelicacy and impropriety, which is so often
brought against woman when she addresses a public audience, comes
with a very ill-grace from those who encourage, by their attendance,
her appearance on the stage, in the concert, or in feats of the circus.
Resolved, That woman has too long rested
satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a
perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and
that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great
Creator has assigned her.
That it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves
their sacred right to the elective franchise.
Resolved, That the equality of human rights results necessarily from
the fact of the identity of the race in capabilities and responsibilities.
Resolved, therefore, That, being invested
by the Creator with the same capabilities, and the same consciousness
of responsibility for their exercise, it is demonstrably the right
and duty of woman, equally with man, to promote every righteous cause,
by every righteous means; and especially in regard to the great subjects
of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to participate
with her brother in teaching them, both in private and in public,
by writing and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be
used, and in any assemblies proper to be held; and this being a self-evident
truth, growing out of the divinely implanted principles of human nature,
any custom or authority adverse to it, whether modern or wearing the
hoary sanction of antiquity, is to be regarded as a self-evident falsehood,
and at war with the interests of mankind.