Harvard Square Library exists solely on the basis of donations. If you have benefitted from any of our materials, and/or if making Unitarian Universalist intellectual heritage materials widely available and free is a value to you, please donate whatever you can--every little bit helps: Donate
The foremost advocate of women’s rights in the nineteenth century was the daughter of a Johnston, New York, lawyer and congressman. In 1840 Elizabeth Cady married an antislavery orator, Henry Stanton. They had seven children.
In 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York, she formulated the first organized demand for woman suffrage in the United States. A New York statute based on her petitions granted property rights to married women. With Lucretia Mott, she led the first women’s rights convention in the U.S. and drafted its Declaration of Sentiments demanding that government of women without their consent must end.
In 1856 Elizabeth Cady Stanton met Susan B. Anthony. They united to create a movement for women’s rights that transformed social relations in America.
After the Civil War she toured the nation, speaking as the president of the National Woman Suffrage Association.
In 1876 she and Matilda Gage wrote the Woman’s Declaration of Rights, which Susan B. Anthony presented at the Philadelphia Exposition.
Between 1881 and 1885 came the first three volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage coauthored by Anthony, Gage, and Stanton.
She issued The Woman’s Bible in 1895, a prophetic act which deserves continuous appreciation.
“Do not speak out concerning the errors, illusions and patriarchal prejudices of the Bible,” Stanton was advised. “You will create such a furious response that you’ll jeopardise our fight for the right to vote.”
Stanton was not persuaded, declaring that the Bible is the chief enemy of women’s equality. Indeed, she exclaimed, “The Bible has been the great block in the way of civilization. The wonder is that women make a fetish of the very book which is responsible for their civil and social degradation.”
Refusing to postpone the controversy, she continued openly to oppose oppressive power, crying out unambiguously: “So long as tens of thousands of Bibles are printed every year, and circulated over the whole habitable globe, and the masses in all English-speaking nations revere it as the word of God, it is vain to belittle its influence.”
Elizabeth Cady dared openly to ask: “Does anyone at this stage of civilization think the Bible was written by the finger of God, that the Old and New Testaments emanated from the highest divine thought in the universe?” Nay, she proclaims, “The Bible treats women as of a different class, inferior to man or in subjection to him.”
Gathering a committee of women to issue a Woman’s Bible commenting on the view of women in the Old and New Testaments, she issued the first of the two volumes in 1895. It was edited and mainly written by her.
In 1895, the same year that The Woman’s Bible appeared, 6,000 people gathered in the Metropoliitan Opera House in New York City to honor Elizabeth’s 80th birthday. She was an excellent public speaker who then and there unequivocally affirmed that women must now demand an equal place in the church, including the financial transactions.
In 1902 at age 86, she died in her sleep just after writing to President Theodore Roosevelt, urging him to declare himself in favor of women’s right to vote. The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America was adopted in 1920.
A statue of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony now stands in the United States Capitol.