Seneca Falls

9829 Words40 Pages
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.
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