(Above, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, seated, with Susan B. Anthony)
The name of Susan B. Anthony is the one most associated with the 19th Amendment which gave Women in the United States the right to vote. She pursued this goal single-mindedly throughout her life. It seems to me, however, that her friend and associate Elizabeth Cady-Stanton is actually the more interesting personality in the fight for women’s equality.
It was Cady-Stanton who initiated the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention which was the first Women’s Rights Convention in the US. Her interests went far beyond women’s voting rights and included a whole range of privileges to which men felt entitled but which were denied to women: employment and property rights, divorce rights and jury service.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton had enjoyed an education usually reserved for boys. She studied Greek, Latin and mathematics and was an excellent speaker and writer.
In “Declaration of Sentiments”, she proclaimed that men and women were created equal and that as an individual a woman must rely on herself. Elizabeth was married with seven children and did not think that her husband should be dictating her actions. She also believed that a woman should have control over her sexual life and childbearing.
In “The Woman’s Bible” she wrote: “The custom of calling women Mrs. John This and Mrs. Tom That is founded on the principle that white men are the lords of all.”
Of the Bible, she said “I know of no other book that so fully teaches the subjugation and degradation of women.
What power is it that makes a Hindu woman burn herself on the funeral pyre of her husband? Her religion. What holds a Turkish woman in the harem? Her religion. By what power do the Mormons perpetuate their system of polygamy? By their religion. Can we ever cultivate any sense of self-respect as long as women take such sentiments from their priesthood?” Yes, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was also an agnostic.
Women in France only got the vote in 1944. In 1971, Switzerland became the last nation in Western Europe to let women vote. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was way ahead of her time.