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Seneca Falls

analytical Essay
9829 words
9829 words
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Title: The road from SENECA FALLS. (cover story) Source: New Republic, 08/10/98, Vol. 219 Issue 6, p26, 12p, 3bw Author(s): Stansell, Christine Abstract: Reviews several books related to women’s suffrage and feminism. ‘The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady STANTON and Susan B. Anthony, Volume One: In the School of Anti-Slavery, 1840-1866,’ edited by Ann D. Gordon; ‘Harriet STANTON Blatch and the Winning of Woman Suffrage,’ by Ellen Carol DuBois; ‘Woman Suffrage and the Origins of Liberal Feminism in the United States, 1820-1920,’ by Suzanne M. Marilley; More. AN: 888132 ISSN: 0028-6583 Full Text Word Count: 9663 Database: Academic Search Premier Section: BOOKS & THE ARTS The feminism of the mothers, the feminism of the daughters, the feminism of the girls. THE ROAD FROM SENECA FALLS I. One hundred and fifty years ago this summer, in the little country town of SENECA FALLS in upstate New York, several dozen excited women and a few interested men held the first meeting in the world devoted solely to women’s rights. It was 1848, the “springtime of the peoples” in Europe; and, although these Americans were far removed from the emancipatory proclamations in Europe, they caught the fever and produced one of their own, the Declaration of Sentiments: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” Compared to the apocalypticism of The Communist Manifesto, another product of that year, the SENECA FALLS Declaration seems modest, a relic of right-thinking republicanism rather than a portent of wrenching revolutionary transformation. Yet its effects were destined to be no less profound, and far more benign. The gathering in 1848 emerged from a long, fitfully articulated history of women’s grievances, though the participants were not aware of it. The interruption of historical memory and, in its absence, the strains of improvising a politics of grievance on the spot, have always characterized this tradition. The written record of female protest extends back to the late middle ages, to the French woman of letters Christine de Pizan and her Book of the City of Ladies. It was in the late eighteenth century, however, that the language of the rights of man gained momentum around the northern Atlantic world, shifting the idea of justice for women out of the register of utopia to make it, for a few highly politicized women in the age of revolution, a plausible goal in the here and now. Thus, in 1776, Abigail Adams admonished her patriot husband, away in Philadelphia at the Continental Congress, to “remember the ladies” in their declarations, a nudge tempered by coyness but at heart quite serious.

In this essay, the author

  • Reviews several books related to women's suffrage and feminism.
  • Describes the feminism of mothers, daughters, and girls.
  • Analyzes how elizabeth cady stanton refused to abjure her loyalties to the women's rights wing of abolition.
  • Compares the epistolary styles of anthony's and stanton’s letters in selected papers. anthony moved in a cosmopolitan anglo-american milieu, intellectually and socially.
  • Explains that strong and varied reform movements took root and flourished in the northern united states before the civil war. abolitionism, temperance, and moral reform crusades garnered both male and female supporters.
  • Analyzes how the seneca falls declaration emerged from a long, fitfully articulated history of women's grievances, though the participants were not aware of it.
  • Describes elizabeth cady stanton as a well-heeled woman who benefited from the best education available to girls in antebellum america.
  • Analyzes how the selected papers uphold a nowcommon view of stanton and anthony as the brains of the pair, but the book's offerings deepen the meaning of both roles.
  • Analyzes how stanton and anthony's influence was limited to radical quakers and garrisonian activists. the reconstruction amendments had the paradoxical effect of explicitly repudiating woman suffrage by introducing the qualification "male."
  • Explains how women's colleges and coeducational public universities sent out self-consciously new women to work in the world as doctors, businesswomen, settlement house residents, artists, professors.
  • Analyzes how the saga of generation and memory, of mothers and daughters, is the standard by which the convulsions of contemporary feminism must be measured.
  • Explains that christine stansell is professor of history at princeton university. her new book, american moderns, will be published next spring.
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