Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In The Ladies of Seneca Falls: The Birth of the Woman’s Rights Movement, Miriam Gurko provides accessible and accurate biographical sketches of the key figures involved in the early women’s rights movement in the United States. In doing so, she also provides a cultural biography of the movement itself as a living, maturing entity. The chapters are organized in a roughly chronological format, each focusing on a principal figure or significant event.

Early chapters provide background and establish context, creating a concrete picture of the domestic, political, and economic status of American women from Colonial times through the first half of the nineteenth century. Early writers concerned with the issue of rights for women are also discussed. A chapter is devoted to Mary Wollstonecraft, whose Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) became a touchstone of the women’s rights movement.

At the starting point of this dramatic narrative, Gurko depicts the July day in 1848 when five ladies seated around a tea table committed an outrageous act: They decided to call a convention “to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman.” Five days later, in Seneca Falls, the first “Woman’s Rights Convention” was held. The two-day convention, attended by three hundred people, outlined in its Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions goals that would take the movement seventy-two years to achieve,...

(The entire section is 602 words.)