Declaration of Sentiments

by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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According to Stanton's "Declaration of Sentiments", what power have men had over women?

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In her “Declaration of Sentiments,” Elizabeth Cady Stanton states that man has assumed the power to deprive women of their rights, to compel them to adhere to numerous requirements that they have had no say in formulating, and thus to render them “civilly dead.” Stanton denounces these practices as not just civil wrongs but also the appropriation of divine power.

In the list she provides of specific instances of this imposition of power, voting, or “the elective franchise,” is the first “inalienable right” she mentions. Stanton includes compelling women to submit to laws that they did not participate in passing and more generally oppressing them through depriving them of all rights. Marriage is a legal way to make women “civilly dead” and serves to give man the “power to deprive her of her liberty.” Divorce law is another way of “giving all power into his [man’s] hands.” Other areas in which men unjustly give themselves power are employment and wages, education, and the church.

Stanton asserts that men’s assertion of power is not only unfair in civil terms, but morally wrong. Men take unto themselves what is rightly God’s purview. Man has “usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself” by assigning woman to “a sphere of action … that belongs to her conscience and her God.”

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