What was Elizabeth Cady Stanton trying to accomplish by writing Solitude to Self?

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In her "Solitude to Self" speech, Elizabeth Cady Stanton argued the case of equal rights. She gave the speech when she retired in 1892 at age 77 from serving as the first president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), of which she was a founder.

Stanton put forward that each individual—in their soul, in their conscience, and as a citizen—had the same rights. In regard to women in particular, she spoke of self determination, as each woman was the "arbiter of her own destiny," on a desert island like a female Robinson Crusoe.

Stanton raised four specific points. The first was the individual woman's right to apply her faculties to securing safety and happiness for herself.

The second point pertained to citizenship. Since women are members of the nation, the principles of government meant they have the same rights as all other members.

Stanton's third point involved rights and duties for happiness and development. These too were equal, based in woman's role in civilization.

Only in the fourth aspect might there be a difference as some specific types of training might be needed for "the incidental relations of life," which included roles as mother or wife.

The overall solitude in self argument meant that given human individuality and the "infinite diversity in human character," a nation would experience a great loss if any whole group of people were "uneducated and unrepresented in the government."

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a renowned feminist and women's rights campaigner of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Over the course of her long, illustrious career as an activist, she made many passionate speeches in support of the cause to which she devoted the whole of her adult life. But the one she valued the most was her farewell speech, the speech she gave upon resigning her position as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1892.

Stanton's valedictory address, entitled "The Solitude of the Self" is an eloquent plea for the value of each individual human being, men and women alike. What Stanton does in this speech is to place the struggle for women's rights in a broader context. She argues that the campaign for women's equality is ultimately about defending and protecting the rights of each individual; the issue of women's rights is important for everyone, not just women.

Crucially, Stanton draws upon numerous strands of American culture, such as Protestant individualism and the fundamental principles of republican government, to bolster her argument. In doing so, she's attempting to show that the women's rights movement and the values it promotes are entirely consistent with long-standing American traditions.

It's important to remember that, at that time, there was still widespread hostility towards the very notion of women's equality, and not just from men. Opponents argued that activists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton were turning the established order of things upside-down, destroying the very foundations of society. In placing the women's rights movement in a wider historical, philosophical, and political context, Stanton was attempting to allay these concerns, trying to convince those skeptical of the cause of equality that it emanates from the very deepest and best traditions of American individualism and American liberty.

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