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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Right to Not Remain Silent

Debra E. Marvin

This coming weekend marks an annual event in upstate NY commemorating the first Women's Rights Convention in July  of 1848.




Women's rights had actually been a topic of conversation, even publicly, for years. The new century was quickly becoming an age of renewal and reform. The Reverend Charles Finney spoke at many large prayer meetings across New York State, with such huge turn outs for his tent meeting revivals, they became known as The Second Great Awakening  and the entire area called the Burned Over District!  Finney allowed women to speak and pray aloud at these meetings, unheard of before this, and some consider it a fuel for the women's rights' movement.

Another hot topic as early as the 1820s was abolition. Men and women across the northeast publicly argued for the end of slavery. Noted abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison encouraged women to take part in his meetings and have equal say in the discussions. Even those men who favored abolition did not agree that women should be speaking publicly and there was a split in the movement.
Statues inside the National Park Service building

Many women became activists for the rights of women, Native Americans, and Blacks. In 1840, two of the most well-known, Lucretia Mott, a Philadelphia Quaker and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, traveled to London with their husbands for an international Anti Slavery Convention. They were allowed in the convention but not allowed to speak. Perhaps the seeds of a 'women's rights convention' took hold then.
Quaker Activist Lucretia Mott

Women throughout the Northeast began to work for change in the government regarding women's rights to hold office, own land, receive decent wages and inherit land and be protected from losing it.

An eloquent speaker, Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave her first public speech on temperance, in 1841, in her new hometown of Seneca Falls, NY. Throughout the next few years, Stanton and Lucretia Mott planned, while women such as Lucy Stone, Paulina Davis, Abby Kelley Foster and others wrote articles, gave speeches and began to gain momentum on the idea of women's rights. Amelia Bloomer set about to make change through fashion and is remembered for it by name!
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Political Activist

In June 1848, the Liberty Party's candidate for president, Gerrit Smith, ran on a platform including women's right to vote. He happened to be cousin to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. You can imagine he did not get a lot of support at the time. Even some women feared such rapid change and Smith's speech in Buffalo, NY shocked many by its outrageous suggestions for equality. It was at this meeting that Elizabeth's name came up as vice-president on Smith's ticket!

The area's large Quaker population was very progressive and played a large role in the sentiments of the day.

The convention took place on July 19th and 20th, 1848, with teaching sessions scheduled both days. A DECLARATION of SENTIMENTS was created, presented and debated.  Many thought that including voting rights for women would derail the entire movement. The eloquent Frederick Douglas, a former slave who now ran his own newspaper in Rochester, NY, pushed the conventioners to keep voting rights in the document.

It's estimated about three hundred attended. One hundred, including men, signed the Declaration. The  proceedings drew quite a reaction from newspapers around the country. When Mrs. Stanton learned that one newspaper printed the whole declaration in order to mock it, she was pleased. She understood that publicity, even poor publicity, worked!

Stanton was a busy mother and wife throughout all her activist years.  In 1851 she met temperance worker Susan B Anthony, and together they worked tirelessly for women's rights. They were both long gone when finally, in 1920, 72 years after the first convention, women finally won the right to vote. (One signer of the first declaration was still alive and cast her first vote!)
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony

The setting of the convention is now the National Park's Service "Womens' Rights Park". For more on the park and events, the convention and these heroines for civil rights, follow this link. And the next time you have a chance to vote, don't find excuses not to.








10 comments:

  1. I love theses ladies. Many of them are my heroes. I think it's always funny when people say historical novels about women who are strong are unrealistic. Clearly they don't know history.

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  2. Oh so true! There is a huge amount of interesting information on all these women and their backgrounds. I used to live closer to Rochester NY where the emphasis was on Susan B Anthony as the champion of Women's Rights... but it's just not fair to limit such a title.

    In Seneca Falls, Mrs. Stanton is front and center.
    A few months ago, I went to a talk about the Underground Railroad and learned a lot more about the Scorched Over District and the way people in this area almost thumbed their noses at the Federal agents.
    Knowledge is power and being part of a large ground swell of common thinking makes results.

    One thing to consider when our country is in a hurry to shut down religious organizations and shut up the Christian church...they were the ones who started most hospitals and help centers, and pushed for abolition and the rights of minorities.

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  3. Well done, Deb.

    It was a bit different in Canada:

    1809-1849 - women of property could vote in Quebec until the men figured out what was going on and changed the law to show only males could vote

    By 1850 - women across Canada could vote in some municipal elections, as school trustees, etc everywhere except Quebec

    1876 - start of suffrage movement in Ontario which spread across Canada

    By 1900 - women of property could vote in any election

    1916 - Women in Manitoba won the right to vote and hold office in provincial elections

    1918 - any female citizen over 21 yrs of age could vote in any FEDERAL election

    1918-1925 - the rest of the provinces (except New Brunswick and Quebec) allowed women to vote in provincial elections

    1934 - New Brunswick caved and allowed women to vote

    1940 - Quebec finally gave the vote back to women - all women whether propertied or not.

    So, Canada got the job done but in a very sporadic manner.


    BTW - Am I the only one who sees chocolate when you look at the 3rd image - Statues inside the National Park Service building?

    Also... Isn't a 'Quaker Activist' an oxymoron?

    Heh.

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  4. Well done, Deb.

    It was a bit different in Canada:

    1809-1849 - women of property could vote in Quebec until the men figured out what was going on and changed the law to show only males could vote

    By 1850 - women across Canada could vote in some municipal elections, as school trustees, etc everywhere except Quebec

    1876 - start of suffrage movement in Ontario which spread across Canada

    By 1900 - women of property could vote in any election

    1916 - Women in Manitoba won the right to vote and hold office in provincial elections

    1918 - any female citizen over 21 yrs of age could vote in any FEDERAL election

    1918-1925 - the rest of the provinces (except New Brunswick and Quebec) allowed women to vote in provincial elections

    1934 - New Brunswick caved and allowed women to vote

    1940 - Quebec finally gave the vote back to women - all women whether propertied or not.

    So, Canada got the job done but in a very sporadic manner.


    BTW - Am I the only one who sees chocolate when you look at the 3rd image - Statues inside the National Park Service building?

    Also... Isn't a 'Quaker Activist' an oxymoron?

    Heh.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nice details Anita Mae - yes. As far as voting rights, that's finished. But there was a lot of work to be done for equal pay.

    As for the Quakers they seem to have been very progressive. Against killing but very liberal compared to the conservatives of the time. The American Revolution saw much Quaker involvement, and I believe they were the most vocal of the abolitionists.

    I am pretty sure I did not smell any chocolate near those statues! ha ha.

    thanks for helping out!

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  6. Now that you mention it, Anita Mae, they do look like chocolate! Yumm.

    Suzie, you're so right. The past is full of spunky, smart, strong women.

    Great post. We take for granted our right to vote, and it's such a shame. This is a poignant tribute as well as a reminder to exercise our right to vote.

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  7. This is great Debra. I've always wanted to visit. Thanks for the pics. It is still hard to believe that the right to vote for women is less than 100 years old.

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  8. Thanks ladies! I have yet to go to 'convention days' but they do a nice job and I'm sure I could run into all the named women above as they recreate their speeches.

    The Nat'l Park is right in the center of town (next to The Hotel Clarence where you can celebrate It's A Wonderful Life). We have houses that participated in the Underground Railroad as well, and a woolen mill that was created when people stopped using cotton to protest slavery. Lots of great historical ties in this area, including sites from the French and Indian War, WAr of 1812, and Iroquois villages. I've got a lot of history to keep me busy!

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  9. Deb, the suffrage story is one that is so close to my heart. I've got a whole series planned with one written. Anyway, thanks for highlighting these pioneers. They were feisty and difficult and complex and passionate. ANd Fascinating!

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  10. Lisa, I'd be glad to help you out with anything from my neck of the woods.

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