Sunday, July 19, 2015

SENECA FALLS | First Day, July 19

July 19–This day in 1848 the Seneca Falls Convention opened, convened because of the meeting of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who lived there, and Lucretia Mott, who was a visiting preacher for the Quakers.

Stanton and Mott had met eight years before in London, when both accompanied their husbands to an Abolitionist conference. They were told to sit in the balcony and keep quiet.

They seethed for eight years as Stanton raised her three sons and Mott honed her speaking skills at Quaker meetings.

The 150th anniversary of the convention was celebrated in several places in 1998. The best-attended of the celebrations appears to have been in the Geva Theater in Rochester, the nearest big city to Seneca Falls.

The theater, which holds 550 people, was filled. There was a standing ovation for the show, which featured a pageant showing how the spark of the convention lit the fire of woman suffrage that eventually spread across the United States. Roberta Wallace played the part of Inez Milholland. The three-term Mayor of Rochester, Bill Johnson, played the part of Frederick Douglass, who championed votes for women until after the Civil War. It then came down to a choice between universal male suffrage and votes for white women, and Douglass chose universal male suffrage. It took until 1920 for women to get the vote.

Back in 1848, there was no record of women voting in public elections that Elizabeth Stanton was aware of. (Actually women voted in some colonies and states. They voted in some New England town meetings before 1776.  Women owning property could vote in New Jersey for many years starting in 1776.  The Kingdom of Hawaii had universal suffrage starting in 1840, but years later it was cut back to male property-owners.)

When Elizabeth Cady Stanton suggested that women should seek the vote as one of their demands, Lucretia Mott responded: "Lizzie, thee will make us ridiculous."

Douglass disagreed. He was one of 40 men who showed up at the convention on the first day, July 19, despite the specific notation in the announcement that the first day was "exclusively for women". Men were admitted but were told they could not speak on the first day. Douglass spoke anyway, arguing that women should seek the vote because without the vote they would never have any power to redress violations of whatever rights they might claim.

Related Posts: Turning Point Suffrage Memorial . 100th anniversary of the 1913 March on Washington . June 11, 2017, Play Featuring Suffrage Leaders

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