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Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1815-1902

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(Born Elizabeth Cady) American social critic, nonfiction writer, and editor.

Stanton was one of the leaders of the women's suffrage movement in the United States during the nineteenth century. More radical in her views than her close colleague Susan B. Anthony, Stanton advocated a wide range of feminist reforms in law, society, and religion. Stanton promoted her ideas both in writing and by touring as a public speaker. Many of her speeches and other works were produced in collaboration with Anthony and other fellow suffragists.

Biographical Information

Born in Johnstown, New York, the daughter of politician and jurist Daniel Cady, Stanton developed an early interest in liberal causes such as abolishing slavery and promoting women's civil rights. Married in 1840 to the antislavery activist Henry Brewster Stanton, she combined her duties as a housewife and mother of seven with increasing involvement as a writer, public speaker, and political organizer on behalf of women's suffrage. In 1851 she met Susan B. Anthony, who became her life-long partner in working on behalf of voting rights for women. From 1868 to 1870 Stanton edited the Revolution, an influential pro-suffrage newspaper she cofounded with Anthony. She also contributed letters and articles to many other periodicals and went on cross-country lecturing tours to promote her feminist ideas.

Major Works

Stanton often collaborated with others, usually Anthony, when producing her books, articles, and speeches. When working together, Anthony reportedly contributed facts and ideas, while Stanton, who had stronger rhetorical skills, did most of the actual writing. Indeed, commentators usually credit Stanton as the author of the speeches she delivered, noting that her ideas about feminist reform tended to be more wide-ranging and controversial than those of Anthony and her other associates. Her best-known speech, "Solitude of Self," reflects a highly personal philosophical vision, arguing for women's freedom on the grounds that all human beings live and die alone, and so must be responsible for themselves. Although she invited others to contribute to her Woman's Bible (1895-98), a highly controversial assemblage of feminist revisionist commentaries on Biblical passages dealing with women, she edited the work and composed most of it herself. Critics note that Stanton was adept at shaping her own public image as well as expressing her political views. Her autobiography Eighty Years and More (1898) offers an upbeat portrayal of her career, emphasizing her well-rounded life as both a family woman and political activist.

Critical Reception

Stanton's success as a writer and orator was necessarily tied in with the political nature of her work. Although she was one of the most famous and influential leaders of the American women's suffrage movement, her revolutionary ideas often set her at odds with fellow activists as well as more conservative opponents. For instance, the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which she founded, turned against her by passing a resolution dissociating itself from The Woman's Bible. As her immediate influence waned and she retired from public life, emphasis was placed more on her importance as a historic figure than on the value of her writings. The resurgence of feminism in the late twentieth century stimulated new scholarly interest in both Stanton's political ideas and her literary products.

Principal Works

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History of Woman Suffrage. 3 vols, [editor, with Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage] (prose) 1881-86

The Woman's Bible. 2 vols, [with others] (prose) 1895-98

Eighty Years and More (1815-1897): Reminiscences of Elizabeth Cody Stanton (autobiography) 1898

Elizabeth Cady Stanton as Revealed in Her Letters, Diary and Reminiscences (prose) 1922

Elizabeth Cady Stanton/Susan B. Anthony:...

(The entire section contains 34148 words.)

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Stanton, Elizabeth Cady (Feminism in Literature)