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Seneca Falls Convention (Roark, 2002)

Textbook
James L. Roark, et al., eds., The American Promise: A History of the United States, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002), 380.
In 1848, about one hundred “living energetic beings,” led by reformers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, gathered at Seneca Falls, New York, for the first women’s rights convention in the United States. The Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments proclaimed that “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.”

In the style of the Declaration of Independence, the Seneca Falls Declaration listed the ways women had been discriminated against. Through the tyranny of male supremacy, men “endeavored in every way that [they] could to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lesson her self-respect, an to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.” The Seneca Falls Declaration insisted that women “have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States,” particularly the “inalienable right to the elective franchise.”

Nearly two dozen other women’s rights conventions assembled before 1860, repeatedly calling for suffrage. But they had difficulty receiving a respectful hearing, much less obtaining legislative action. No state came close to permitting women to vote. Politicians and editorialists hooted at the idea. Everyone knew, they sneered, that a woman’s place was in the home, rearing her children and civilizing her man. Nonetheless, the Seneca Falls Declaration served as a path – breaking manifesto of dissent against male supremacy and of support for woman suffrage, which would become the focus of the women’s rights movement during the next seventy years.

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