Declaration of Sentiments

by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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How does Elizabeth Cady Stanton's "Declaration of Sentiments" and "Speech to the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention" depict America as a land of people seeking freedom?

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On two hot days in July of 1848, in Seneca Falls in upstate New York, an important step in America’s march toward the expansion of freedom took place. A group of women, many of whom were Progressive Quakers, met and decided it was important to hold a convention devoted to addressing the vast inequality of women in the United States. Some of these women were stalwarts in the abolition movement and temperance movement but were stymied by rules that barred women from speaking out at public meetings. This was the impetus that led them to address all the ways that women were denied their freedom and their rights as citizens.

At what is known as the Seneca Falls Convention, along with having a variety of workshops, the women presented the Declaration of Sentiments. This was written mainly by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who, along with Lucretia Mott and Motts’s sister, Martha Wright, were the principal organizers of the convention. The convention was attended by about three hundred people, including some sympathetic men, such as Frederick Douglass.

The Declaration of Sentiments was modeled on the Declaration of Independence and addresses the issues of inequality for women in all areas of society: domestic, legal, social, religious, civic, and political. For example, married women lost their rights to property and had to submit to their husbands, who were free to punish them. On a societal level, the doors to higher education and a professional career were closed to women. On a civic and religious level, women were not allowed to speak out in public. And most importantly, on a political level, women were not allowed to vote and therefore did not have a voice in forming the laws that governed them.

Some quotes from the Declaration of Sentiments are as follows:

”He has compelled her to submit to laws in the formation of which she has no voice.”

”He has taken from her all rights in property, even to the wages she earns.”

”He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education.”

”She is compelled to promise obedience to her husband.”

Further quotes can be found in the reference cited below.

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