Imagine that you were born in 1815. Now, you would be 199 years old. So would Elizabeth Cady Stanton who really was born in 1815, on Nov. 12th. She had bright blue eyes and brown curly hair that eventually became the whitest of white curly hair. She had two younger and two older sisters and an older brother.
Her brother died when she was eleven years old. His death devastated her father who had had high hopes for his son. Hoping to console her father, Elizabeth set out to prove that he could have high hopes for her too. That he would recognize, she later wrote, “the equality of the daughter with the son.” She had to prove that because her father, like many people throughout history, believed that a girl was weaker than a boy, that she did not need much education, that her future was marriage to a man who would legally be the boss of the family. If she spoke out in public, people would be shocked. She would not have rights we take for granted, including the right to vote.
Elizabeth never did convince her father; no matter her accomplishment he would just kiss her on the forehead and sadly say, “Ah, you should have been a boy!” And she did become a wife and the mother of seven children. But that is not her whole story.
In July of 1848, Elizabeth initiated a groundbreaking women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, “to discuss the social, civil, and religious conditions and rights of women,” a very controversial idea. Supporters were ridiculed and reviled. But Elizabeth kept fighting for women’s equality.
Water Wall with the Declaration of Sentiments by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Women’s Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, NY.
A persuasive orator she lectured widely. Frederick Douglass, the former slave and famous abolitionist, recalled that she thoroughly convinced him “of the wisdom & truth of the then new gospel of woman’s rights.” A prolific author, she wrote the “Declaration of Sentiments,” an iconic document that still moves people. A charismatic leader, she inspired people, including Susan B. Anthony, her trusted friend and coworker. Shortly before Elizabeth Cady Stanton died in 1902, Susan wrote: “It is fifty-one years since we first met and we have been busy through every one of them, stirring up the world to recognized the rights of women.” So, to Elizabeth Cady Stanton–Happy 199th Birthday!