Day 45, Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Women’s Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, New York
White women gained the right to vote in the United States 100 years ago, in 1920. But have you ever thought about when the movement for women’s suffrage began? 1848… That’s right – women had been fighting for the right to vote for more than 70 years before the 19th amendment was ratified by the states. Prior to 1848, there were scattered movements around the nation, but 1848 is considered the beginning of the movement that we know today as the Women’s Suffrage Movement. So what happened in 1848?
On Sunday July 9, 1848, Lucretia Coffin Mott, Mary Ann M’Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Jane Hunt met and organized a Women’s Rights Convention, to occur in Seneca Falls on July 19 and 20th. They were all Quakers with the exception of Stanton, and they were fed up and wanted change. During their planning meetings, they drafted 10 resolutions demanding that women should have equality in the family, education, jobs, religion, and morals. They restricted the first day of the Convention to women, but allowed men on the second day and invited a number of influential men, including Frederick Douglass.
Interestingly, women’s suffrage was not one of the original demands drafted by the organizers, and the women were actually split on whether or not they wanted it included. It was heavily debated during the convention, with many attendees believing that its inclusion would cause a loss of support for other resolutions considered to be more “reasonable.” In the end, it was included, and the Declaration of Sentiments was signed by 100 of the 300 attendees; 68 women and 32 men.
If you are interested, you can read the Declaration of Sentiments, which is modeled after the US Declaration of Independence…
The Historical Park has several sites you can visit. The Visitor’s Center has a lot of information about the convention, the women’s suffrage movement, and these powerful women who were instrumentation in getting it off the ground.
The Wesleyan Chapel where the convention was held was built in 1843 and extensively altered in the years after the convention. When the National Park Service acquired the site, it was a shell of a building with some original portions of the wall left standing. They have rebuilt it, showing where the construction is original and what is reconstruction. It is interesting to see!
I also visited the homes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane Hunt and Mary Ann M’Clintock. The Stanton and M’Clintock houses are open to the public on tours, but only on select days (not when I was there). The Hunt house was acquired by the Park Service in 2000 and they are working on restoring it. It is not currently open to the public, but one day it will be neat to see!
It was amazing to see these sites and experience where five women started on a course that would eventually change history. It makes me sad that the cause for women’s suffrage took so long that none of these women were alive to see the culmination of what they set in motion. We still have a lot of work to do, but it is inspiring to see what these women achieved with their voices!