"ENTERING UPON THE GREAT WORK BEFORE
US" - STANTON 1848
Declaration of Sentiments
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Cady Stanton's Declaration of Sentiments speech.
Our Roll of Honor, signatures to the Declaration
of Sentiments set forth by the First Woman's Rights
Convention held at Seneca Falls, NY, July 19-20, 1848, with
emendations by Elizabeth Cady Stanton's daughter Harriot
Stanton Blatch (1856-1940) — U.S. Library of Congress.
It follows the full text transcript of
Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Declaration of
Sentiments, as published in the History of Woman Suffrage
by Stanton et al. The Declaration was delivered at the
Seneca Falls Convention, New York — July 19-20, 1848.
When, in the
course of human events,
it becomes necessary for
one portion of the family of man to assume among
the people of the earth a position different
from that which they have hitherto occupied, but
one to which the laws of nature and of nature's
God entitle them, a decent respect to the
opinions of mankind requires that they should
declare the causes that impel them to such a
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that
all men and women are created equal; that they
are endowed by their Creator with certain
inalienable rights; that among these are life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to
secure these rights governments are instituted,
deriving their just powers from the consent of
the governed. Whenever any form of government
becomes destructive of these ends, it is the
right of those who suffer from it to refuse
allegiance to it, and to insist upon the
institution of a new government, laying its
foundation on such principles, and organizing
its powers in such form, as to them shall seem
most likely to effect their safety and
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that
governments long established should not be
changed for light and transient causes; and
accordingly all experience hath shown that
mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils
are sufferable, than to right themselves by
abolishing the forms to which they were
accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and
usurpations, pursuing invariably the same
object, evinces a design to reduce them under
absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw
off such government, and to provide new guards
for their future security. Such has been the
patient sufferance of the women under this
government, and such is now the necessity which
constrains them to demand the equal station to
which they are entitled.
The history of mankind is a history of repeated
injuries and usurpations on the part of man
toward woman, having in direct object the
establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.
To prove this, let facts be submitted to a
He has never permitted her to exercise her
inalienable right to the elective franchise.
He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the
formation of which she had no voice.
He has withheld from her rights which are given
to the most ignorant and degraded men — both
natives and foreigners.
Having deprived her of this first right of a
citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving
her without representation in the halls of
legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides.
He has made her, if married, in the eye of the
law, civilly dead.
He has taken from her all right in property,
even to the wages she earns.
He has made her, morally, an irresponsible
being, as she can commit many crimes with
impunity, provided they be done in the presence
of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she
is compelled to promise obedience to her
husband, he becoming, to all intents and
purposes, her master — the law giving him power to
deprive her of her liberty, and to administer
He has so framed
the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the
proper causes, and in case of separation, to
whom the guardianship of the children shall be
given, as to be wholly regardless of the
happiness of women — the law, in all cases, going
upon a false supposition of the supremacy of
man, and giving all power into his hands.
After depriving her of all rights as a married
woman, if single, and the owner of property, he
has taxed her to support a government which
recognizes her only when her property can be
made profitable to it.
He has monopolized nearly all the profitable
employments, and from those she is permitted to
follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration.
He closes against her all the avenues to wealth
and distinction which he considers most
honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology,
medicine, or law, she is not known.
He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a
thorough education, all colleges being closed
He allows her in Church, as well as State, but a
subordinate position, claiming Apostolic
authority for her exclusion from the ministry,
and, with some exceptions, from any public
participation in the affairs of the Church.
He has created a false public sentiment by
giving to the world a different code of morals
for men and women, by which moral delinquencies
which exclude women from society, are not only
tolerated, but deemed of little account in man.
He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah
himself, claiming it as his right to assign for
her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her
conscience and to her God.
He has endeavored, in every way that he could,
to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to
lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing
to lead a dependent and abject life.
Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of
one-half the people of this country, their
social and religious degradation — in view of the
unjust laws above mentioned, and because women
do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and
fraudulently deprived of their most sacred
rights, we insist that they have immediate
admission to all the rights and privileges which
belong to them as citizens of the United States.
In entering upon the great work before us, we
anticipate no small amount of misconception,
misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall
use every instrumentality within our power to
effect our object. We shall employ agents,
circulate tracts, petition the State and
National legislatures, and endeavor to enlist
the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope
this Convention will be followed by a series of
Conventions embracing every part of the country.
The following resolutions were discussed by
Lucretia Mott, Thomas and Mary Ann McClintock,
Amy Post, Catherine A. F. Stebbins, and others,
and were adopted:
WHEREAS, The great precept of nature is conceded
to be, that "man shall pursue his own true and
substantial happiness." Blackstone in his
Commentaries remarks, that this law of Nature
being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God
himself, is of course superior in obligation to
any other. It is binding over all the globe, in
all countries and at all times; no human laws
are of any validity if contrary to this, and
such of them as are valid, derive all their
force, and all their validity, and all their
authority, mediately and immediately, from this
Resolved, That such laws as conflict, in any
way, with the true and substantial happiness of
woman, are contrary to the great precept of
Nature and of no validity, for this is "superior
in obligation to any other."
Resolved, That all laws which prevent woman from
occupying such a station in society as her
conscience shall dictate, or which place her in
a position inferior to that of man, are contrary
to the great precept of Nature, and therefore of
no force or authority.
Resolved, That woman is man's equal—was intended
to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of
the race demands that she should be recognized
Resolved, That the women of this country ought
to be enlightened in regard to the laws under
which they live, that they may no longer publish
their degradation by declaring themselves
satisfied with their present position, nor their
ignorance, by asserting that they have all the
rights they want.
Resolved, That inasmuch as man, while claiming
for himself intellectual superiority, does
accord to woman moral superiority, it is
pre-eminently his duty to encourage her to speak
and teach as she has opportunity, in all
Resolved, That the same amount of virtue,
delicacy, and refinement of behavior that is
required of woman in the social state, should
also be required of man, and the same
transgressions should be visited with equal
severity on both man and woman.
Resolved, That the objection of indelicacy and
impropriety, which is so often brought against
woman when she addresses a public audience,
comes with a very ill-grace from those who
encourage, by their attendance, her appearance
on the stage, in the concert, or in feats of the
Resolved, That woman has too long rested
satisfied in the circumscribed limits which
corrupt customs and a perverted application of
the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that
it is time she should move in the enlarged
sphere which her great Creator has assigned her.
Resolved, That it is the duty of the women of
this country to secure to themselves their
sacred right to the elective franchise.
Resolved, That the equality of human rights
results necessarily from the fact of the
identity of the race in capabilities and
Resolved, therefore, That, being invested by the
Creator with the same capabilities, and the same
consciousness of responsibility for their
exercise, it is demonstrably the right and duty
of woman, equally with man, to promote every
righteous cause by every righteous means; and
especially in regard to the great subjects of
morals and religion, it is self-evidently her
right to participate with her brother in
teaching them, both in private and in public, by
writing and by speaking, by any
instrumentalities proper to be used, and in any
assemblies proper to be held; and this being a
self-evident truth growing out of the divinely
implanted principles of human nature, any custom
or authority adverse to it, whether modern or
wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to
be regarded as a self-evident falsehood, and at
war with mankind.
At the last session Lucretia Mott offered and
spoke to the following resolution:
Resolved, That the speedy success of our cause
depends upon the zealous and untiring efforts of
both men and women, for the overthrow of the
monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to
woman an equal participation with men in the
various trades, professions, and commerce.
The only resolution that was not unanimously
adopted was the ninth, urging the women of the
country to secure to themselves the elective
franchise. Those who took part in the debate
feared a demand for the right to vote would
defeat others they deemed more rational, and
make the whole movement ridiculous.
But Mrs. Stanton and Frederick Douglass seeing
that the power to choose rulers and make laws,
was the right by which all others could be
secured, persistently advocated the resolution,
and at last carried it by a small majority.
Thus is will be seen that the Declaration and
resolutions in the very first Convention,
demanded all the most radical friends of the
movement have since claimed — such as equal rights
in the universities, in the trades and
professions; the right to vote; to share in all
political offices, honors, and emoluments; to
complete equality in marriage, to personal
freedom, property, wages, children; to make
contracts; to sue, and be sued; and to testify
in courts of justice. At this time the condition
of married women under the Common Law, was
nearly as degraded as that of the slave on the
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Human Rights in History.