PHOTOS: The Small Upstate New York Town That Played a Huge Role in Women’s Rights
In July of 1848 something the United States had never seen before happened – women who were tired of being treated like property, tired of being silenced, and tired of being treated as inferior beings took a stand and raised their voices.
These brave women demanded that just like men, they also mattered and that not only were they deserving of equal rights but that they also deserved the right to vote. These women organized a women's rights convention in a small town located in Upstate New York called Seneca Falls and their actions would change history.
In July of 1848, the convention, which was originally known as the Women’s Rights Convention and then later the Seneca Falls Convention, was the first women’s rights convention ever to be held in the United States. It was held over the course of two days in the Wesleyan Chapel and was advertised as a “convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women.”
The Convention was the brainchild of Elizabeth Cady Stanton who, after finding herself fed up with being silenced, treated like property, and thought of as only good to stay home and raise children, put her foot down and reached out to her friends to see what could be done about things.
Stanton contacted Lucretia Mott, a Quaker preacher from Philadelphia, Mary M’Clintock, the daughter of Quaker anti-slavery, temperance, and women’s rights activists, and Martha Coffin Wright, Lucretia Mott’s sister who was an abolitionist and ran a station on the Underground Railroad from her Upstate New York home. These women would become the primary organizers of the Convention along with Jane Hunt who was a member of M’Clintock’s extended family and another Quaker activist.
The Seneca Falls Convention began on a powerful note with a speech by Stanton in which she declared
“We are assembled to protest against a form of government, existing without the consent of the governed—to declare our right to be free as man is free, to be represented in the government which we are taxed to support, to have such disgraceful laws as give man the power to chastise and imprison his wife, to take the wages which she earns, the property which she inherits, and, in case of separation, the children of her love.”
On the first day, only women were allowed to attend but on the second day, the doors opened to both men and women. An estimated 300 people attended the Convention during which many topics were discussed including that women should be equal in politics, family, education, jobs, religion and morals.
At the time of the conference, women faced a slew of prejudices such as being denied education, being required to be obedient to their husbands, being prohibited from owning property, being forced to hand over any money they earned to their husbands, and even being denied equal rights in the event of divorce.
The Conference demanded that no woman should be considered inferior to a man and that women should have equal access to jobs. Perhaps the biggest demand to come from the Conference though was the stand that women should be given the right to vote.
People were shocked by such a thought and the right to vote actually ended up becoming the cornerstone of the women’s suffrage movement.
On August 18, 1920, 72 years after the Seneca Falls Convention, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed and women were finally given the right to vote.
And to think – it all began right here in Upstate New York in a little town called Seneca Falls and all because a very courageous group of women refused to let their voices be muffled.
Today, visitors can walk the streets of Seneca Falls and take in the proud and rich history. There are statutes all over town, the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and even tours of what was once the home of a very brave woman named Elizabeth Cady Stanton.