Today Seneca Falls is best remembered as the event when women formally asked for the right to vote but that was not the main focus of the convention.
The two-day event held on July 19-20, 1848, at the Wesleyan Chapel, in Seneca Falls, NY focused on the much more general discussion of the “social, civil, and religious condition of woman.” The first day was women only. The second day, both men and women were able to take part in the deliberations. Lucretia Mott was the headliner and Frederick Douglass was a guest speaker.
The event would culminate in a reading and signing of the “Declaration of Sentiments.” Written by the organizers during the previous week and refined during the convention, it was modelled directly on the “Declaration of Independence.” Without consulting the others, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, known to be a very radical progressive, added voting enfranchisement just before the start of the convention. At the time, this was a very extremist idea. Even Lucretia Mott felt that asking for the vote would make the convention look “too ridiculous.” Frederick Douglass sided with Stanton and argued in favor of leaving it in place. It was the only resolution that did not pass unanimously.
Out of the approximately 300 participants at the convention 68 women and 32 men signed the “Declaration of Sentiments.” The document was printed as a pamphlet and circulated to promote the cause of women’s rights. However, after facing public criticism and ridicule, some signers withdrew their names from the document. It’s not always easy to be brave, but we are grateful for the ones who were.
One signer, 18-year-old Charlotte Woodward (married name: Pierce), who attended Seneca Falls Convention with her friends, was still alive at age 91 when women got the right to vote in 1920. She was bedridden and was not able to go to the polls to cast a ballot that day. She never withdrew her name.
This week’s song pick:
“Brave” by Sarah Bareilles https://youtu.be/QUQsqBqxoR4
Episode 08 Sources:
Original source report on the convention and the Declaration of Sentiments: