It Seemed Like Any Other Tea Party

On July 9, 1848, over tea and talk at the home of Jane Hunt - Lucretia Mott, Mott’s younger sister Martha Coffin Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary Ann McClintock decided to hold a convention to discuss women’s rights. Stanton expressed her long-accumulating discontent  with women’s lives. In addition to being denied the right to vote, women were not allowed to own property, enter contracts and, in many areas, speak in public.

By July 11, the first announcement for the two-day Convention appeared in the Seneca County Courier. Eight days after the five women talked over tea, more than 200 women and men gathered for what would be considered the start of the fight for American women’s right to vote.

Suffragists began their organized fight for women’s equality in 1848 when they demanded the right to vote during the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. For the next 72 years, women leaders lobbied, marched, picketed, and protested for voting rights.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, which guaranteed most American women the right to vote, on May 21, 1919. The 19th Amendment was ratified and part of the US Constitution on August 26, 1920.

Top photo: Iwomen's suffrage: international gathering, 1888 International gathering of woman suffrage advocates in Washington, D.C., 1888; seated (from left) Alice Scotchard (England), Susan B. Anthony (United States), Isabella Bogelot (France), Elizabeth Cady Stanton (United States), Matilda Joslyn Gage (United States), and Baroness Alexandra Gripenberg (Finland).

We Hold These Truths to be Self Evident...

In 1848, 240 men and women met for the first woman's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, and issued what amounted to a women's Declaration of Independence. Over the next two years, the group generated a great deal of discussion about the inequality and injustice suffered by American women. Many of the women had been active in anti-slavery work, and they had begun to see themselves as enslaved by a society that denied them basic rights.

 

Some say the suffragist movement extends back even further than 1848. Many  suffragists were part of the abolitionist movement as well.The start of the movement could be traced back to Abigail Adams asking her husband to "remember the ladies" at the United States Continental Congress.

The Seneca Falls event and the document it created make for a dramatic start to the suffrage movement.


 

They Served and Sipped Tea That Would Impact History

Elizabeth Cady Stanton volunteered to write an outline for their protest statement, calling it a Declaration of Sentiments. Stanton and McClintock, then, drafted the document, from Mc'Clintock’s mahogany tea table (pictured here). The Declaration of Sentiments set the stage for

convening.

The Declaration detailed the injustices inflicted upon women in the United States and called upon American. women to organize and petition for their rights.

The declaration was covered widely by the press and because of its boldness in asserting that men and women were equal, it received much criticism. One publication called it, “the most shocking and unnatural event ever recorded in the history of womanity”.

Charlotte Woodward Pierce would be the only woman who signed The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions. to live to see women granted the right to vote 72 years later in 1920. Click on the image below to read it.

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Seneca Falls Convention - July 19–20, 1848

 

This convention on women’s rights resulted in the formation of the American women’s movement. The 5 women who started it would not live to see women’s voting rights as the law. But the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920. It declares that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the  United States or by any State on account of gender.

 

The first day of the convention was for women only. Men were allowed to join on day two and Frederick Douglass, Richard P. Hunt and James Mott were there. On the second day, 11 resolutions were considered. All passed unanimously except for the provision to grant women the vote. After an eloquent appeal by Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), the measure did pass.

At the close of the convention, 68 women and 32 men signed The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions. It was written in the pattern of the Declaration of Independence. Its preamble stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights… ”

The Declaration of Sentiments was printed by the abolitionist newspaper "The North Star"

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) became one of the most outspoken advocates of abolition and women’s rights in the 19th century.Believing that “Right is of no sex, truth is of no color,” Douglass. He joined the abolitionist movement in 1841as a speaker for the American Anti-Slavery Society. By 1847 he had moved to Rochester, NY, where he published the North Star, a weekly abolitionist newspaper.

Douglass was also active with the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society, and it was through this organization that he met Elizabeth M’Clintock. In July of 1848, M’Clintock invited Douglass to attend the First Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY. Douglass readily accepted, and his participation at the convention revealed his commitment to woman suffrage. The Declaration of Sentiments was printed on the North Star printing press.

Douglass continued to support the cause of women after the 1848 convention. In 1866 Douglass, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, founded the American Equal Rights Association, an organization that demanded universal suffrage. Though the group disbanded just three years later due to growing tension between women’s rights activists and Africa-American rights activists, Douglass remained influential in both movements, championing the cause of equal rights until his death in 1895.

In the late spring of 1850, those who had taken up the cause decided to hold a national convention to test the proposition that a political movement for women's rights could garner support from around the country. The question was: Would anyone come to such a gathering?

 

Women's rights pioneers such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Abby Kelley, and Lucretia Mott all signed the call to convene, as did such leading male reformers as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, and William Lloyd Garrison.

 

The New York Tribune reported that "above 1,000 people were present, and if a larger place could have been had, many more thousands would have attended."