Seneca Falls Convention

It is difficult for me to imagine a time when the simple phrase, "all men and women are created equal," would have been utterly shocking. Not that I believe that there are not still people who disagree with that statement, but it is no longer an uncommon idea. Despite threats and excoriation from the media, many women signed the "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions." And, in doing so, they went on record as demanding the vote as a natural right of woman.

70 years passed before women gained the right to vote. Is that a horribly long time, or an amazingly short time? In the grand scheme of things, it is an amazingly short period of time, but it is also a lifetime. More than a lifetime for some. It is doubtful that many, if any, of the women who attended the convention lived to see women getting the right to vote.

Even today, it is difficult to point out the wrongs done to an oppressed class without taking an accusatory tone. This document does not shy away, however, from direct accusations. "This history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman.... To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world" (139). The writers of the document allow no wiggle room. The words to follow apply to all mankind. They proceed to list facts, beginning with the lack of franchise and explicitly spelling out what that means. Just as the founders of America protested taxation without representation, so too do the women protest that they have no say, not only in taxation, but in any law to which they must submit.

The women do not stop at a list of grievances. Instead, they also offer solutions, in the form of resolutions. Some of them point out hypocritical existing standards, such as those that prevent women from speaking in public while allowing them to perform in a concert. Others speak more broadly on the rights and responsibilities which should be accorded to women and men. In the introduction to the Declaration, the editors note that it was Frederick Douglass who convinced the women to include the resolution demanding enfranchisement. That this impetus came from a man only reinforces the sentiment of the last resolution that calls for work from both men and women to accomplish their goals.

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