Why does July 19, 1848, matter to us today?
It’s the day the Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances was signed. We might say that was the beginning of the end. . .the end of women as second-class citizens.
Talking it through
It started — 173 years ago — with a pot of tea. Five women got together in Seneca Falls, New York, to sip fresh brew, talk through their rights as women, and map roads to a new way of thinking.
Words turned quickly into deeds. The group agreed to host a conference the following week to expand the conversation. They posted an ad in the local newspaper announcing their event July 19 and 20 at a chapel in Seneca Falls. Despite such short notice, the conference drew more than 200 women and some 40 men, including African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
“Women shall no longer be the governed half of society, but shall participate equally with men in the direction of life.”
- The Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances.
Group leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton shared with participants the Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances, an essay she penned after the tea party. Modeled on The Declaration of Independence, its preamble included the proclamation, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal. . .”
Stanton’s point was clear. The road ahead will be better for all of us if America’s founding documents include and protect women and men alike.
Learning the lessons
Some of what we learn from the Seneca Falls Convention:
- Bringing women to the table with men is common sense: The Declaration was a first step toward #5050x2028 — roughly half women and half men in elected office by 2028. A key principle was “that women shall no longer be the governed half of society, but shall participate equally with men in the direction of life.”
Today’s take: Had enough of us still being #2?
- Local leads to national: It only takes a spark to get a full blaze going. A gathering of five women at a tea party in 1848 led 10 days later to a local convention of 200 women (and men); an even larger, statewide gathering two weeks later; and national conventions each year after that. The result 72 years later was nationwide change: passage of the 19th Amendment.
Today’s take: Another century later, lace up your shoes. Women are still underrepresented at every level of government. It’s time to speed up our pace, with eyes on the finish line of 50/50 representation.
- Inclusivity is the way forward: 32 men joined 68 women in signing the Declaration, including Douglass, who described it as the “grand movement for attaining the civil, social, political, and religious rights of women.”
Today’s take: Dear dad, husband, son, brother: Bet you would have made it 33 — and brought bro power!
Reading the tea leaves
Little could the Seneca Falls Five predict their July tea party would seep so deeply into the tomorrows that followed.
One thing they could foresee: turning sentiments and grievances into powerful ideas and meaningful actions is the way to grow forward, together.
©2021 Women’s Campaign Fund