How Two Capital Regionites Fought For Women’s Right To Vote
It’s crazy to think that just over 100 years ago women didn’t yet have the right to vote. But while the 19th amendment didn’t go into effect until 1920, the coordinated women’s suffrage movement had begun more than 70 years prior—in Upstate New York, of all places.
The first women’s rights convention was held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, NY and served as the kick-off for the women’s suffrage movement. Eleven resolutions on women’s rights were discussed, including the rights to property, education, and, most notably, the right to vote. Three hundred people attended, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the meeting’s organizers.
Born in Johnstown, NY, Stanton received her education at Johnstown Academy and Emma Willard’s Troy Female Seminary. Her father was a lawyer, and growing up, Stanton gained an informal legal education from him. After marrying abolitionist Henry Stanton in 1840, she became active in the anti-slavery movement and resided in Albany and later Boston. While honeymooning at the World’s Anti-Slavery convention in London, Stanton met abolitionist Lucretia Mott, who shared her anger at the fact that women were largely excluded at the proceedings. The pair vowed to host a women’s rights convention when they got home, and eight years later put on the Seneca Falls Convention.
Perhaps the most recognized name in women’s suffrage, Susan B. Anthony wasn’t actually at the momentous convention; she wouldn’t meet Stanton until 1851, but immediately the two women began collaborating on speeches, articles and books. Anthony, too, has ties to Upstate New York—her family moved from Massachusetts to Battenville in Washington County when she was a child. She taught at Canojoharie Academy before meeting Stanton, and went on to travel the country promoting unpopular-at-the-time causes. In 1873, Anthony broke the law by voting in a federal election in Rochester and was found guilty by an all-male jury, but was never imprisoned. Instead, she continued her work, contributing to Stanton’s History of Woman Suffrage and eventually becoming president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
Two of history’s most influential suffragists, neither Stanton nor Anthony lived to see the fruits of their labor; both passed away in the early 1900s. But today, more than a century later, their names are still remembered by the millions of Americans who now have a voice thanks to their work.