The Bonds of Womanhood

This paper was written while I was in 11th grade at Winchester Thurston School for American History with Dr. Michael Naragon.

Carlos Macasaet
January 24, 2000
The Bonds of Womanhood and Citizenship

The Women’s Rights movement came about when abolitionist men suppressed women from participating actively in the anti-slavery meetings. Because of this, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott decided to hold the first Woman’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, N.Y in June of 1848. At this convention, the women would articulate their protests against their status in society as well as their proposals to alleviate the problem.

At the convention, the women present wrote resolutions and made speeches to affirm the rights that they believed were rightfully theirs as human beings. In the Declaration of Sentiments, they stated that throughout history, men and women have been treated unequally and that women have tolerated this. Even in America, whose government declares all men to be created equal, they claimed that women have patiently accepted their inferior role in society. In this document, the writers expressed the many ways in which men have tyrannized over women. Some of these, were ways in which the government oppressed women, such as the denial of women to the “inalienable right to the elective franchise[1], the submission of women to laws created entirely by men and the exclusion of women from certain rights which are granted even to men who seemed unworthy In addition, the government taxed single women who owned property even though women had no voice in the government. Others were ways in which society treated women unequally to men. It said that once married, women lose the rights to all of their property, are excluded from the legal system, and must be obedient to her husband as a master. In addition, it said that the divorce laws of the time were geared towards the men and did not consider the women who were involved. It also stated the opportunities that were available to men but unfairly denied to women. It said that all of the profitable jobs were available only to men and that the jobs that women could hold were not very profitable. Furthermore, colleges did not admit women thus making it impossible for women to receive a comprehensive education. This document also stated the ways in which the church treated men and women unequally. It said that although women were allowed to participate in religious ceremonies, they were always subordinate to men. Moreover, society saw women as living by a different set of morals than those of men. It also stated that not only have men tolerated the inferior view of women, they have also made an effort to discourage women and make them subordinate to men.

After affirming their rights, the delegates to Seneca Falls demanded through the Declaration of Sentiments that the United States grant them their due rights and privileges as human beings. They also agreed to do everything that was within their power to circulate their message and cause others to be sympathetic to their cause. They stressed that it was not solely the responsibility for the government and men to change but it was also the duty of women to push this change forward.

The women presented their argument by modeling the Declaration of Sentiments after the Declaration of independence. Instead of stating directly what the United States government should do, it affirmed the rights of women and the ways in which the male dominated government has violated these rights.

The Seneca Falls convention and other similar ones received much press coverage at the time. Some of newspapers praised the women for what they were doing, but the majority of them scoffed at the meetings. They often said that the women were making unreasonable demands and that the women were acting out of their league. Many saw this as a stark break with tradition. Many also believed that the women would not really accomplish anything. They thought that while the relations between men and women would change, their overall condition (i.e. the oppression of which they spoke) would not change.

The newspapers that denounced the conventions did so on the grounds that the changes demanded by the women were “impractical, uncalled for, and unnecessary.”[2] They said that in order for the position of women in society to change, men would also have to change their position in order to accommodate them. They argued that this radical change in society would disrupt the order in society that has evolved over the past six thousand years.

[ 1 ]Declaration of Sentiments, paragraph 4.
[ 2 ]Mechanics (Albany, N.Y.) Advocate.

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