Seneca Falls and Subsequent Conventions

Declaration of Sentiments - Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection

Full View of the Declaration of Sentiments

Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection

The Seneca Falls Convention was held in July 1848 with the purpose of addressing the social, civil, and religious rights of women.  The Declaration of Sentiments laid out the grievances of the convention’s leaders, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, and was presented for approval to an audience of over three hundred.  In form, the document follows the Declaration of Independence.  Asserting that “all men and women are created equal”, its resolutions call for equal rights in access to education, power within the church, control of money and property, and suffrage.  Of these demands, a woman’s right to vote was particularly controversial.  Following a speech by abolitionist Frederick Douglass, likely the only African American in attendance, it was narrowly accepted by the convention’s attendees.  In effect, the Declaration of Sentiments launched the suffrage movement.  

"Ye May session of ye woman's rights convention - ye orator of ye day denouncing ye lords of creation / JM'N." - Library of Congress

Speakers at women's rights conventions were often interrupted by heckling, as depicted in this engraving published in Harper's Weekly on June 11, 1859.   

SPC AP2 .H32 v.3 no.105-157 ja-de 1859 

Library of Congress

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton - Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Records of the National Woman's Party

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, ca. 1891

Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Records of the National Woman's Party  

Following the Seneca Falls Convention, women's rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) made suffrage her priority.  Partnering with Susan B. Anthony, whom she met in 1851, Stanton delivered impassioned speeches and circulated written works.  In 1867, an amendment enfranchising African American men was introduced in Congress.  Stanton and Anthony both opposed this legislation in part because it ignored women’s suffrage and in part due to racial prejudice. Their stance split the women’s movement and gave rise two separate organizations: the National Woman Suffrage Association headed by Stanton and Anthony and the American Woman Suffrage Association founded by Lucy Stone.      

Sixteenth Amendment Convention Announcement

16th Amendment Convention Handbill, 1878 / COU: 4443 

This handbill announcing a convention organized by the National Woman Suffrage Association defines women’s right to vote as “the greatest political question of the age”.  A call to action using startlingly racist tropes, it urges women across America to speak up and act, in part by calling on their representatives in Congress to attend.  It is signed in print by movement leaders Clemence S. Lozier, Susan B. Anthony, Isabella Beecher Hooker, and Sara Andrews Spencer.  Held in January 1878, the Tenth Annual Woman Suffrage Convention marked thirty years since Seneca Falls.  The meeting was a landmark in its own right as it resulted in the first Congressional bill to amend the Constitution.  Ultimately, instead of women’s suffrage, the 16th amendment would solidify laws on federal income tax.