By Victoria Rose, July 1848
Upon first seeing the announcement of the Seneca Falls convention in our sister paper, the Seneca County Courier, I was truly beside myself with joy. The announcement appeared earlier this July in the Courier, and small though the typeface was, it’s physical size did nothing to undermine the revolutionary beginning it was instilling among American women. The convention advertised planning “to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women”1 and dictated that it would “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.”2 It was at this moment I was proud to be one of very few female journalists, as I read that “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.”3 Among the women mentioned leading the convention was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who I shall shamelessly admit is a personal hero of mine; she is in her early thirties but is already pioneering a bright future for women across America, and it was my divine pleasure to receive the opportunity to interview her and share her wisdom and comments with you as readers of the Baltimore Sun. First and foremost, however, I must detail the profound and humbling experience of attending this convention, and the events that henceforth transpired.
I arrived on that warm and balmy Wednesday, the nineteenth of July, to a bustling crowd of women, all of whom shared the same unifying goal. I was later informed that two hundred women were in attendance, and to be one of those two hundred women felt incredibly empowering, especially as a reporter. Events like these are normally dominated by my fellow male colleagues, and as this first day was exclusive to women, I had a first look into the convention, and the chance to be the lead journalist on this story; the convention had yet to even start and I must admit, I already felt more empowered. Eventually, we gathered together to hear the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, a document written by Ms. Stanton and the other women organizing the convention, which to no one’s surprise was a document detailing the wishes and, indeed, sentiments of the American women. I, among many others, noticed it to be closely modeled after the Declaration of Independence, specifically noting the line, “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.”4 I felt it rather appropriate to model our own Declaration after the original statements made in the Declaration of Independence, to revise the statements made so that they appropriately represent the population of female Americans. The second day was structured in a similar fashion as the first day, only with males in attendance this time; I had expected the convention to be very different with the addition of men, but gender aside, we all attended the convention for the same unifying purpose, and therefore found myself feeling better yet than the day before. One of the most notable attendees was the esteemed Frederick Douglass, known for his abolitionist work for the eradication of slavery, but who apparently also advocates for women’s rights. I managed to get in a quick word with him, and after brief small talk I expressed my concern at how this convention was already receiving backlash from the public for its ‘frivolity’; at hearing this he smiled, and simply said “If there is no struggle, there is no progress”5. After thanking Mr. Douglass for his time, we along with the entirety of the convention proceeded to partake in the voting of twelve resolutions. The committee of women (including Ms. Stanton) who ran the convention had written up resolutions for the attendees to vote on; every single resolution was passed unanimously, except for the ninth resolution that dictated women should be able to vote. The resolution was eventually passed, but not with the same ease that the previous resolutions had been. I hope that at some point in my lifetime, I am able to vote – if not, I at least hope that one of the other women I was able to attend with shall have that opportunity instead.
Though the entirety of the convention impacted me in one way or another, the interview I had the pleasure of conducting with Elizabeth Cady Stanton encompassed all of what I had learned into a life changing five minutes I surely will never forget. Ms. Stanton presents herself well, her dark hair pulled back around her rounded features, and though she is young, she makes up for it through a confident demeanor and intelligent comments far beyond her years. We exchanged pleasantries and then proceeded onto the interview, which I shall recount below.
Q: Thank you for taking the time to speak to me, today, Ms. Stanton! I have been truly moved and inspired by your work over these past 2 days, especially your speeches! How do you do it!?
A: [In response to public speaking] “Dress loose, take a great deal of exercise, and be particular about your diet and sleep sound enough, the body has a great effect on the mind.”
Q: Could you, perhaps, speak to the underlying prejudice that women need to rely on men in order to be successful in life?
A: “Whatever the theories may be of woman’s dependence on man, in the supreme moments of her life, he cannot bear her burdens. In the tragedies and triumphs of human experience, each mortal stands alone.”
Q: In response, then, what can you say to inspire the women who are striving to develop independence in our highly patriarchal society?
A: “Put it down in capital letters: SELF-DEVELOPMENT IS A HIGHER DUTY THAN SELF-SACRIFICE. The thing that most retards and militates against women’s self development is self-sacrifice.”
Q: If you could then impose one piece of wisdom upon the younger generation (the youth growing up amidst this female revolution) watching and listening to you, what would it be?
A: “I would have girls regard themselves not as adjectives, but as nouns.”
Q: “Are you concerned about the response of people who believe women shouldn’t be granted the rights that you speak of, or that what you’re saying is simply not true?”
A: “Truth is the only safe ground to stand upon.” and “The best protection any woman can have … is courage.”6
As this henceforth concluded the interview, I heartily thanked Ms. Stanton for her time and proceeded to take leave of the convention. I hope you, dear reader, have enjoyed this insight into the convention (be you male or female), and that it has inspired you to fight to improve the lives of females in your life, for anything helps, no matter how small it may seem.
1. History.com Staff. “Seneca Falls Convention Begins.” History.com. Last modified 2010. Accessed April 20, 2017. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ seneca-falls-convention-begins.
4. Ibid .
5. “20 Powerful Quotes From Frederick Douglass.” Mental Floss. February 14, 2017. Accessed April 29, 2017. http://mentalfloss.com/article/92216/20-powerful-quotes-frederick-douglass.
6. Schneider, Caitlin. “15 Empowering Quotes from Elizabeth Cady Stanton.” Mental
Floss. Last modified November 12, 2015. Accessed April 25, 2017. http://mentalfloss.com/article/71141/15-empowering-quotes-elizabeth-cady-stanton
7. World History Group. “Seneca Falls Convention.” HistoryNet. Accessed April 25, 2017. http://www.historynet.com/seneca-falls-convention.