Seneca Falls Convention

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

Page 98

The Seneca Falls Convention, which took place in Seneca Falls, New York, in July 1848, was the first national women's rights convention and a pivotal event in the continuing story of U.S. and women's rights.

The idea for the convention occurred in London in 1840 when ELIZABETH CADY STANTON and Lucretia Mott, who were attending a meeting of the World Anti-Slavery Society, were denied the opportunity to speak from the floor or to be seated as delegates. Mott and Stanton left the hall where the meeting was taking place and began to discuss the fact that while they were trying to secure rights for enslaved African Americans, American women found themselves treated unequally in numerous ways. They concluded that what was needed was a national convention in which women could take steps to secure equal rights with men. Although they agreed that the need for such a convention was a pressing one, they were not to take action on their plan for several years.

Both Stanton and Mott were progressive leaders who had been active in reform movements. Mott, a former teacher who had grown up in Boston, had become interested in women's rights when she discovered that because she was female, she was earning a salary that was exactly half that of male teachers. In 1811 she married fellow teacher James Mott and moved to Philadelphia. She became a member of the Society of Friends (also known as the Quakers) and began to travel the country speaking on the topic of religion and issues including temperance, peace, and the ABOLITION of SLAVERY. In 1833 Mott attended the founding meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Shortly afterwards she founded a women's auxiliary, the Philadelphia Female Anti-slavery Society, and was elected president of the group. Her new position caused a rift within the Society of Friends, and some sought to revoke her membership. Undeterred by the conflict, Mott was an organizer of the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women in 1837.

Stanton, the daughter of a lawyer and U.S. congressman, had studied her father's law books. In 1840 she married Henry Brewster Stanton, a lawyer and abolitionist. The command for the wife to "obey" her husband was left out of their wedding vows. Like Mott, Stanton and her husband were active members of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Following her meeting with Mott in London, Stanton returned to the United States where she began to travel and speak...

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