Women from Seneca County gathered in the Wesleyan Chapel for two days last July 19 and 20 to discuss issues regarding the roles of women in the political, civic and religious realms of society. The highlight of the convention was the so-called Declaration of Sentiments, drafted and proposed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, also a leader in the abolitionist movement. The Declaration pointed out that men and women were created equal and should have the same rights to liberty and pursuit of happiness. It attacks the legal system saying that many laws on marriage are hurtful to women.
The laws criticized by the Declaration included those about marriage, opportunities to good pay or even education and the elective franchise. Stanton condemned the present laws on marriage saying that women who get married become “civilly dead” because of the end to her rights to own property and freedom. According to Stanton, women are also subjected to immorality because she has no right to go against her husband’s questionable dictates. Having no freedom to voice out opinion, Stanton condemns the fact that women become merely objects used and taken advantage of by their husbands.
Stanton also declared that women were getting unjust provisions from their labors because of the scanty salaries being given by employers. She also criticized the closed doors of universities to women which kills their freedom to pursue their potentials. Stanton also declared that women should have the right to vote. She insisted that because women are subject to the laws of the country, she should have equal power to change and enact the laws that concern her. This point in the Declaration was the only issue that met great opposition from within the activists themselves.
Many believed that fighting for women to join the electoral process was futile. An anonymous source spoke that the proposal given by Elizabeth Stanton on the voting rights of women were heavily met by her own husband, also a popular freedom fighter figure, Henry Stanton. However, others such as abolitionist leader, Frederick Douglass, made known their support for the position. Douglass says that he saw suffrage as “the right by which all others could be secured. ” Of the 300 attendees of the convention, only 100 people signed – 68 women and 32 men.
The audience and signees were composed of people from all classes of society and different ages ranging from 14 years old to 81 years of age. A male listener at the convention expressed his view that women want to be “fe-he-males” because they are just not satisfied with the accord already being given to them. According to him, women are already enjoying their husbands’ wealth while holding considerable power over his decisions and it is pure selfishness to ask for more rights. Reverend Horace P.
Bogue, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Seneca Falls, says that women should know their roles in society better because God created men and women in different spheres. Another participant in the convention said that she listened but did not sign the declaration because she did not want her husband to be angry at her and that she was already satisfied with her blessings in life. The convention is the first of its kind to openly address the issue of women and is seeking to continue its goal by holding succeeding conventions for other locations.