Friday, November 30, 2007

She must rely on herself

This is Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
I've always been kind of enamored with her, if the truth be told. There is just something about her story, and how much she did. It's a miracle I've held off as long as I did with making her my Friday lady, but I can hold off no longer. Here we go. Hope my hand can stand up to this one. (yes I am wearing the ugly brace.)

She was born in Johnstown, New York, the eighth of eleven children. Five of her siblings died in childhood/infancy, and her only brother whom had survived died when he was twenty. The loss of so many children made her mother depressed, and emotionally distant with Elizabeth was a child, making her closer to her father, and her two surviving sisters.
Her father, Daniel Cady, was a prominent attorney, and served a term in the US Congress. He later became a Circuit judge, and eventually, a NY Supreme Court judge. When she was young, Elizabeth loved going through his law library, and having debates with his law clerks. She was given a formal education, which was not the norm for girls during that time. She studied latin, greek and mathematics in co-ed classes (oh, the shock!) and brought home many academic awards.
It was around this time that her brother died, and in attempting to comfort her father, she vowed to him she would try to be all that her brother had been, to which her father replied "Oh, my daughter, I wish you were a boy". This devastated her, but with the help of neighbors, and teachers, she focused more on developing herself.
She did attend college, and became an attorney in her own right. She was involved with both the temperance, and the abolitionist movements, and, through her cousin, she met Henry Brewster Stanton. He was a journalist, and antislavery orator, and, eventually became an attorney himself. When they were married, she insisted the word obey NOT be in their vows, and though she took his name, she never let anyone call her "Mrs. Stanton". She always insisted upon being known as "Cady Stanton". Together, they had seven children. (The last one was a surprise menopause baby, and NOT PLANNED!)
Interestingly enough, though her husband was keenly interested in the rights of the slaves, he was not in favor of women's suffrage. As a consequence, in the later years, they lived more apart, then together. They did remain married for forty seven years, however, until he died. When his health was poor, they moved from Boston, to Seneca Falls, New York, where Elizabeth became bored with the lack of society and social intellect she'd been enjoying. She had become great friends with Lucretia Mott, and in 1848, they organized the first woman's rights convention, and held it in Seneca Falls. This solidified her role as an activist, and reformer, and she started being invited to speak at other conventions, where she became friends with Susan B. Anthony, and Amelia Bloomer.
Together, she and Susan B. Anthony became a formidable team. Anthony, being single, and childless (more on her later) was able to do more of the traveling and speaking, since Elizabeth was raising 7 children. Their skills complimented each other. Elizabeth, the better orator, would write the speeches, and Susan would go deliver them! She said of Elizabeth that she "forged the thunderbolts" that Susan "fired". They were friends for 50 years.
After the civil war, the pair began to direct their energies more towards the women's suffrage movement. Unfortunately, Elizabeth, wanting the advantage for women's suffrage, began to rather disparage the civil rights movement, and said many ill advisable things that damaged her own cause, and made rift between herself, and the civil rights movement. She was a proponent of civil rights, however, she just seemed to want to advance the suffrage movement more than the rights of ALL.
She also eventually, caused a rift in the suffrage movement, as well, based on her beliefs regarding religion, and divorce. She felt that organized Christianity relegated women to an unacceptable position in society, and supported divorce rights, as well as employment, and property rights for women. The other suffragists were against becoming involved in these things. Elizabeth even went so far as to contributing to a book called "The Woman's Bible", which elicited a feminist understanding of the scriptures, and tried to correct the fundamental sexism that she saw as being a part of organized Christianity. These were very volatile subjects in her day, and basically, practically got her cast out from the American Women's Suffrage Association.
This did not stop her, though, she went on to write many important books, and speeches, and even sent a congratulatory note to Frederick Douglass, a black civil rights leader who married a white woman in 1884, despite the AWSA being against her doing so.
In 1868, she, with Susan B. Anthony, began to publish a weekly periodical called "Revolution", about women's issues. She worked also, for the next 12 years on the lecture circuit, making enough money to send both her youngest sons to college. Her most popular speeches were "Our Girls", "Our Boys", "Co-Education" "Marriage and Divorce" "Prison Life" and, "The Bible and Women's Rights". She traveled many states, promoting suffrage, including Wyoming, Utah, California, Missouri and Kansas. As she aged, she also began traveling internationally. Eventually, in 1890, the two factions of the women's suffrage movement combined (despite her objections) to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Though she had objected, she became it's first president. (Susan B. Anthony actually intervened extensively to cause this to happen).
Her last appearance for the suffrage movement was to appear before the US Congress. In her speech, which later became known as "The solitude of self" she had this to say

"The isolation of every human soul and the necessity of self dependence must give each individual the right to choose his own surroundings. The strongest reason for giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her faculties, her forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the crippling influences of fear- is the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life. The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe, equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birth-right to self -sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself. . ."

She died, in 1902, twenty years before we were granted the right to vote. I think of her on those voting day, maybe when I am feeling to lazy or tired to be bothered to go to the polling booth. Then I get up and go, because she couldn't. And, largely because of her, we can.


David in DC said...

Growing up in Rochester, New York had its advantages.

Both Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony lived there. Their homes are Local landmarks.

Seneca Falls is an easy drive away.

So you learn quite a bit of suffrage/abolition/civil rights history just by osmosis.

Great post. Eagerly awaiting Susan B's turn.

sybil law said...

No doubt about it - she rocks.