Women of the Week
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
and Lucretia Coffin Mott
In honor of Women’s History month, we want to take a moment to recognize some of the earliest Bettys-the powerful women who went before us and so boldly blazed the way for generations of women to follow. While there are many influential females to choose from the history books, we asked Deborah Perry Piscione, BettyConfidential.com co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief, to choose one of her personal favorites.
You have done a good deal of research into women’s history and historical figures who have made a difference for women–who stands out in your mind as one of the most influential?
–> “There are actually two that go hand-in-hand: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Coffin Mott. They were original suffragists and did the original work to grant women the right to vote.”
They’re credited with organizing the Seneca Falls Convention in July 1948. Can you give us a brief refresher on the significance of that event?
–> “No event in American history had more of a significant effect in the defining and galvanizing of women’s political equality than this first women’s convention. For American women, the Seneca Falls Convention was tantamount to the Founding Fathers signing of the Declaration of Independence. It clearly laid the groundwork for the legitimate outgrowth of the fundamental principles of the nascent democracy distinctly set forth in the Declaration of Independence and in the U.S. Constitution.”
Briefly describe what the situation was like for women at that time.
–> “Women were discriminated against in many facets of life: jurisprudence, civil and political theories, trade, commerce, education and religion. Even in family life, the Blackstone Code for Woman (codified by English legal theorist, Sir William Blackstone, and adopted in America in 1776) defined women as existing in ‘civil death’ in marriage, where their husbands gained total rights and responsibilities over their wives’ bodies and lives. That meant husbands were granted legal rights to beat or rape their spouses without any consequences. According to Sir Blackstone, females are excluded as a ‘human being’ on account of the defect of sex, and therefore, white women and free African women were considered property of ownership.”
What has been the long-term impact of Stanton and Mott’s actions?
–> “Were it not for these two women-whose friendship grew naturally out of women’s wrongs, history would have read like a Greek tragedy. The women’s call for action emerged into an us versus them scenario, and Stanton and Mott collaborated to define and disseminate the us. Neither one of them necessarily desired to rise to the level of patriotic greatness, but Stanton and Mott’s early life struggles provoked a craving for evenhandedness in society, parity in education and employment, and justifiable human rights for all children of the young nation.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)
- Born: Johnstown, New York
- Occupation: Teacher
- Family: Married to Henry Brewster Stanton; mother of six children
- Of Note: Stanton overheard her father say to her mother after the laborious delivery of her younger sister, “What a pity she’s a girl.” Stanton insisted the word “obey” be omitted from her wedding vows.
Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793-1880)
- Born: Nantucket Island, Mass.
- Occupation: Teacher
- Family: Married to James Mott; mother of six children
- Of Note: After the death of her infant son, Thomas, in 1817, Mott became devoutly religious and decided to serve as a Quaker minister. Mott was so committed to the principles of emancipation, she even refused to wear cotton or serve sugar that was produced by slaves.
“Strange as it may seem to many, we now demand our right to vote according to the declaration of the government under which we live. This right no one pretends to deny… The right is ours. The question now is: how shall we get possession of what rightfully belongs to us?”
—Elizabeth Cady Stanton