|Declaration of Sentiments|
Background: Seneca Falls Convention of 1848
The document was produced at the Seneca Falls Convention, which took place in the famous "burned-over district" of New York. Reform of all sorts was being heralded by the middle class in this area. There were many wrongs that needed righting in the new world brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Issues such as slavery, child labor, alcoholism, etc. were tackled by the reformers of the Second Great Awakening.
One of the biggest issues was that women's rights. Women were being abused at home and at the workplace and reformers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton had had enough and called for the expansion of democracy to women.
The meeting included 68 women and 39 men and produced a famous document that set off the women's rights movement: The Declaration of Sentiments based on the Declaration of Independence.
Primary Source: from The Declaration of Sentiments
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.
We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness...
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. (i.e. to vote)
- Having deprived her of this first right as
a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without
representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all
- He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.
- He has made her morally, an irresponsible
being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in
the presence of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled
to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and
purposes, her master - the law giving him power to deprive her of her
liberty, and to administer chastisement.
- He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration.
- He closes against her all the avenues to
wealth and distinction, which he considers most honorable to himself. As a
teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.
- He allows her in church, as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.
- He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated but deemed of little account in man.
- He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God.
- He has endeavored, in every way that he could to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.
Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation, - in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, 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.
In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and national Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions, embracing every part of the country.
Questions: Answer all of the following questions completely on another sheet of paper.
1.) How and why, do you think, did the women at the Seneca Falls Convention use the Declaration of Independence as a model in producing the Declaration of Sentiments?
2.) Has today's American woman been able to overcome the obstacles and oppression described by Stanton in the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments? Explain your argument with specific and particular details.