Women’s rights activist and suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a leading political figure in the 19th century in the United States and made a massive contribution to the development of women’s rights. She was also active in the abolitionist movement, as well as involved in lots of issues beyond voting for women, such as income rights, divorce, birth control etc.
Such an important political figure had an interesting and active background, so here are the top 8 interesting facts about Elizabeth Cady Stanton that you might not know!
Elizabeth Cady Stanton Facts
1. She came from a large family – but not for long
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the eights of eleven children. Her parents lived in Johnstown, New York.
An unfortunate fact about Elizabeth Cady Stanton is that she lost five of her brothers and sisters at very early ages. Her older brother Eleazar also died when he was 20.
This means only she and four sisters managed to grow up into adulthood, and into old age. Elizabeth herself died at the age of 86.
2. Elizabeth became interested in women’s rights as a child
Elizabeth’s father was a lawyer, judge and congressman and she spent a lot of time in his office, observing cases and meetings. It was there that she learned about how the law restricted women in working and owning property.
Her farther initially supported Elizabeth by giving her law books to study and explaining how she could make public appeals to the government to overturn any objectionable status. However, later in life, he didn’t approve of her activism.
3. She organised the first convention for women’s rights
Stanton worked with Lucretia Mott and others to organise a gathering of about 300 people which was aiming to “discuss the social, civil and religious conditions and rights of Woman.” This took place in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, and Elizabeth read out a document called the “Declaration of Sentiments.” She had written this as a mirror to the American Declaration of Independence and she started off by saying: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.”
There were resolutions to be ratified by the attendees and Elizabeth Cady Stanton included a woman’s right to vote in there, which passed. This dictated the direction of the movement from then on and it established her as a leader, an interesting fact about Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
4. Stanton was the first woman to run for Congress
Interestingly, although she couldn’t vote, there was no law that prevented Stanton from taking office if she was elected. Knowing this, she ran for Congress in 1866 for a seat in New York and got 24 votes off the back of a letter in which she announced that she would stand for free speech, free press, free men and free trade.
5. She was actually rebuked by her own fellow activists
Elizabeth’s ideas were sometimes too revolutionary even for her peers. In 1860, she called for more liberal divorce laws at a women’s rights convention, which caused a scandal. She also created controversy in 1895, when she published “The Woman’s Bible”, where she showed the role of religion in denying women’s rights. Christian members of the National American Woman Suffrage Association took a dim view of this book which became a best-seller, denounced the book and distanced itself from Stanton. Eventually, this led to Stanton being an outsider in the suffrage movement for the rest of her life as a result.
6. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote many of Susan B. Anthony’s speeches
In 1851, Elizabeth met the activist Susan B. Anthony, a Quaker and reformer from Massachussets. This was at a time when Elizabeth had not been able to work very much on women’s rights as she was focusing on being a wife and a mother, only writing in her home. An interesting fact about Elizabeth Cady Stanton is that she became friends with Susan B. Anthony and started to write speeches which the latter could deliver in her travels around the country.
When her children had grown up, Elizabeth Cady Stanton returned to travelling herself, but Anthony continued to serve as the face of the women’s rights movement and the two continued to be an inseparable pair. Stanton would say, “I forged the thunderbolts and she fired them.”
7. Stanton started off as an abolitionist but didn’t support the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution
The beginning of Stanton’s political career was linked to the anti-slavery movement. She met, fell in love with and married Henry Stanton, an abolitionist lecturer, and settled with him in Boston. Here the couple were active in the anti-slavery cause and this is how Stanton got her political wits and also the inspiration for her work on women’s rights.
However, even as she supported the end of slavery, Stanton opposed the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, which allowed black people to vote. This is because the 14th Amendment referred to “male citizens” and – of course – Stanton and Anthony wanted to push for the right to vote for both male and female alike. By 1869, the debate led to a split in the women’s rights movement (those who agreed with them and those who didn’t), until 1890 when they merged to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which Stanton headed.
8. She tried to give her brain to science
Stanton met a women’s rights activist called Helen Gardener who asked her to donate her brain to Cornell University after her death. This was at a time when scientific claims stated that men were cleverer than women thanks to the size and shape of their brains. Stanton agreed to this but, when she died in 1902, her children refused to honour the agreement, an interesting Elizabeth Cady Stanton fact.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a remarkable woman who worked tirelessly to advance the rights of women, primarily for voting but also in many other areas. She was not without her quirks, however! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed learning about 8 interesting facts about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, her convictions and her amazing work as a writer, activist, suffragist and abolitionist. If you are interested, visit the Historical People Facts Page!