Sunday, August 21, 2016

VOTES FOR WOMEN | July 19–Seneca Falls Convention

Site of Wesleyan Chapel, Seneca Falls.
At the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, N.Y., a woman’s rights convention–the first ever held in the United States–convened in 1848 with almost 200 women in attendance.

Why It Was Organized

The convention was initiated by Quaker Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, previously united in opposition to slavery.

They first met at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. Even though Mott was a full delegate, both Mott and Stanton were barred from the convention floor because they were women. Their anger flared and then simmered for eight years.

When Mott visited Stanton in 1848, they arranged for a tea at the home of Mary Ann McClintock. Also attending were Martha Wright and Jane Hunt. Together the group decided to advertise (on July 14 in the Seneca County Courier) a women’s conference to be held at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls. The announcement read:
A Convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women will be held in the Wesleyan Chapel, at Seneca Falls, N.Y., on Wednesday and Thursday, the 19th and 20th of July current; commencing at 10 o’clock A.M. During the first day the meeting will be exclusively for women, who are earnestly invited to attend. The public generally are invited to be present on the second day, when Lucretia Mott, of Philadelphia, and other ladies and gentlemen, will address the Convention. 
What Happened

On July 19, 200 women and some men convened at the Chapel, and Stanton read the “Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances,” which she had drafted over the previous few days, modeled on the American Declaration of Independence, which in turn is widely believed to have been modeled on the 1320 Scottish Declaration of Arbroath. The preamble of Stanton's Declaration began:
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… 
The Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances detailed injustices to U.S. women and called upon women to petition for their rights. The men who attended the first day, even though they were only invited for the second day, were allowed to stay. One of them spoke–Frederick Douglass, who urged the women to introduce the suffrage demand.  Stanton favored it, but Mott was opposed.

On the second day the Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances was adopted and signed by the assembly. The convention also passed 12 resolutions–11 unanimously–which called for specific equal rights for women. The ninth resolution, on suffrage (“It is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise”) was the one of the 12 that was passed over opposing arguments.

The Seneca Falls Convention was followed two weeks later by a larger meeting in Rochester, N.Y. After 72 years, the 19th Amendment was adopted in 1920, recognizing the Federal rights of American adult women to vote.

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