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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On July 19, 1848, the very first Women’s Rights Convention was convened to discuss the role of women in the American society. It was held over two days at Seneca Falls, in northwestern New York (midway between Rochester and Syracuse).

This historic event signaled the beginning of the women’s rights movement in the United States. It was organized by five women - Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, Mary Ann McClintock, and Jane Hunt. The most important document coming out of the convention was its “Declaration of Sentiments,” a list of grievances with a demand for action. The struggle, begun in Seneca Falls, would last for more than another century, and many believe it still has not met its objectives.

You can judge for yourself if their “DECLARATION OF SENTIMENTS” is justified by reading some of the excerpted passages below. Space does not allow us to include all of the provisions but here are some of the most important.

“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world:

“He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. (no right to vote)

“He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice. (no right to make laws)

“Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has opposed her on all sides. (no representation in government)

“He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead. (no right to enter into legal contracts)

“He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns. (limited property rights)

“He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper cause of divorce; in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given. (no right to divorce an abusive husband or gain custody of their children)

“He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration. (no equal pay for equal work)

“He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction, which he considers most honorable to himself. As teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known. (barred from certain professions)

“He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education - all colleges being closed against her. (barred from higher education)

“He allows her in Church but in a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry. (barred from holding office in the church)

“He has created a false public sentiment, by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women. (held to a different moral standard than men)

“He has endeavored, in every way that he could to destroy her confidence in her own power, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life. (repressed civil rights leads to poor self respect)

“Now, in view of this entire disenfranchisement of one-half of the people of this country, their social and religious degradation; in view of the unjust laws mentioned above, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, WE INSIST THAT THEY HAVE IMMEDIATE ADMISSION TO ALL THE RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES WHICH BELONG TO THEM AS CITIZENS OF THESE UNITED STATES."

One hundred people ratified and signed this document (32 were men).

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