Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an American suffragist, social activist, abolitionist, and leading figure of the early women’s rights movement.
Cady Stanton was introduced to the abolitionist, temperance, and women’s rights movements through her cousin, the reformer Gerrit Smith. In 1840 she married the reformer Henry B. Stanton, she insisted that ‘obey’ be dropped from the vows at their wedding ceremony. They spent their honeymoon in London so that they could attend the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London, where Cady Stanton joined other women in objecting to their exclusion from the assembly. At the Convention she met Lucretia Mott, the leading American female abolitionist and began to study the Anglo-American traditions of women’s rights.
In 1848 Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and several other women held the famous Seneca Falls Convention. The attendees drew up a “Declaration of Sentiments” and Cady Stanton insisted that they include the right to women’s suffrage in its resolutions. That year she also circulated petitions throughout New York to urge the New York Congress to pass the New York Married Women’s Property Act.
In 1851 Cady Stanton met Susan B. Anthony and the two collaborated on speeches, articles, and books. Cady Stanton’s intellectual and organisational partnership with Anthony dominated the woman’s movement for over half a century.
During the Civil War the women had focused their attention on abolishing slavery. In 1863 Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony created the Women’s Loyal National League and gathered 400,000 signatures on a petition to bring about immediate passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to end slavery in the United States.
After the Civil War Cady Stanton devoted her time to Women’s rights, including Women’s suffrage. Together with Anthony she created the American Equal Rights Association, the first national organisation to fight for universal suffrage and women’s rights. They also worked together on the Revolution, a militant weekly paper. In 1869 they formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) which would be the forerunner of the organisation that would eventually secure the Nineteenth Amendment. Stanton was the NWSA’s first president – a position she held until 1890.
Cady Stanton travelled the country giving speeches, in “Our Girls” her most frequent she implored girls to get an education so that they could provide an income for themselves if needed and to be independent, well developed people. She also spoke on maternity, child rearing, divorce law, temperance and presidential campaigns.
Cady Stanton wrote three volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage (1881-85) with Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage. The authors detailed the individual and local activism that built and sustained a movement for woman suffrage. Cady Stanton also published the Woman’s Bible (1895, 1898), in which she voiced her belief in a secular state and urged women to consider how organised religion played a role in denying women their full rights.