Address on Woman’s Rights

by

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton Character Analysis

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a prominent figure in the women’s rights movement in the United States throughout the mid-to-late 1800s. In 1848, at the Seneca Falls Convention in her home state of New York, she presented the Declaration of Sentiments and made the first formal demand for women’s suffrage (or the right to vote) in the U.S. Well-educated for a woman of her time due to her privileged station—her father was a member of the House of Representatives and a New York Supreme Court Judge—Elizabeth Cady married Henry Brewster Stanton, a noted slavery abolitionist. When Stanton was barred from attending the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 due to her sex, she and several other women delegates, including Lucretia Mott, became dedicated activists for women’s rights. Together, Stanton and Mott held the Seneca Falls Convention and presented their demands for reforms of women’s treatment in society, including a call for women’s suffrage and an expansion of women’s opportunities for education and employment. Stanton was an abolitionist, an advocate for temperance (or abstention from alcohol), and the president of the National Woman Suffrage Association from 1869–1892. A prolific writer and lecturer, Stanton drafted the federal suffrage amendment that would eventually be passed into law in 1920. Her “Address on Woman’s Rights” was first delivered in 1848, though there is some historical debate as to whether she delivered the speech at the Seneca Falls Convention in July or later in the year, in September. In this speech, Stanton humorously yet passionately advocates for the equality of the sexes and demands women’s rights to vote, to pursue educations, and to participate in public life. The speech reveals Stanton to be a playful yet astute orator and an informed, careful student of global women’s history.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton Quotes in Address on Woman’s Rights

The Address on Woman’s Rights quotes below are all either spoken by Elizabeth Cady Stanton or refer to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Northeastern University Press edition of Address on Woman’s Rights published in 1992.
Address on Woman’s Rights Quotes

Woman alone can understand the height and the depth, the length and the breadth of her own degradation and woe. Man cannot speak for us—because he has been educated to believe that we differ from him so materially, that he cannot judge of our thoughts, feelings and opinions by his own.

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

Suffice it to say for the present, that wherever we turn the history of woman is sad and drear and dark, without any alleviating circumstances, nothing from which we can draw consolation. As the nations of the earth emerge from a state of barbarism, the sphere of woman gradually becomes wider but not even under what is thought to be the full blaze of the sun of civilization is it what God designed it to be.

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sunlight
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

[Satan] thought that [Adam] could be easily conquered through his affection for [Eve]. But the woman […] could be reached only through her intellectual nature. So he promised her the knowledge of good and evil. He told her the sphere of her reason should be enlarged […] so he prevailed and she did eat. […] Eve took an apple went to Adam and said "Dear Adam […] if you love me eat." Adam stopped not so much as to ask if the apple was sweet or sour. […] His love for Eve prevailed and he did eat. Which I ask you was the "creature of the affections"?

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker), Adam and Eve
Page Number: 54-55
Explanation and Analysis:

In my opinion he is infinitely woman's inferior in every moral virtue, not by nature, but made so by a false education. In carrying out his own selfishness, man has greatly improved woman's moral nature, but by an almost total shipwreck of his own. Woman has now the noble virtues of the martyr, she is early schooled to self denial and suffering. […] Then [man] says by way of an excuse for his degradation, God made woman more self denying than us, it is her nature, it does not cost her as much to give up her wishes, her will, her life even as it does us. We are naturally selfish, God made us so. No!

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

Now your strongest men are […] very often the small man who is well built, tightly put together and possessed of an indomitable will. Bodily strength depends something on the power of will. The sight of a small boy thoroughly thrashing a big one is not rare. Now would you say the big fat boy whipped was superior to the small active boy who conquered him? You do not say the horse is physically superior to the man—for although he has more muscular power, yet the power of mind in man renders him his superior and he guides him wherever he will.

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

We did assemble to protest against a form of government existing without the consent of the governed, to declare our right to be free as man is free.

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

But say some would you have woman vote? What refined delicate woman at the polls, mingling in such scenes of violence and vulgarity—most certainly—where there is so much to be feared for the pure, the innocent, the noble, the mother surely should be there to watch and guard her sons, who must encounter such stormy dangerous scenes at the tender age of 21. Much is said of woman's influence, might not her presence do much towards softening down this violence—refining this vulgarity?

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

In nothing is woman's true happiness consulted, men like to […] induce her to believe her organization is so much finer more delicate than theirs, that she is not fitted to struggle with the tempests of public life but needs their care and protection. Care and protection? such as the wolf gives the lamb—such as the eagle the hare he carries to his eyrie. Most cunningly he entraps her and then takes from her all those rights which are dearer to him than life itself.

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Page Number: 59-60
Explanation and Analysis:

Let woman live as she should, let her feel her accountability to her Maker— Let her know that her spirit is fitted for as high a sphere as man's and that her soul requires food as pure as refreshing as his—let her live first for God and she will not make imperfect man an object of reverence and idolatry— Teach her her responsibility as a being of conscience and of reason—that she will find any earthly support unstable and weak, that her only safe dependence is on the arm of omnipotence.

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Wives obey your Husbands in the Lord. Now as the command is given to me, I am of course to be the judge of what is in the Lord and this opens a wide field of escape from any troublesome commands.

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

I think a man who under the present state of things has the moral hardihood to take an education at the hands of woman and at such an expense to her, ought as soon as he graduates with all his honours thick upon him take the first ship for Turkey and there pass his days in earnest efforts to rouse the inmates of the Harems to a true sense of their present debasement and not as is his custom immediately enter our pulpits to tell us of his superiority to us "weaker vessels" his prerogative to command, ours to obey—his duty to preach, ours to keep silence.

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

The only happy households we now see are those in which Husband and wife share equally in counsel and government. There can be no true dignity or independence where there is subordination, no happiness without freedom.

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

The feeling we so often hear expressed of dislike to seeing woman in places of publicity and trust is merely the effect of custom very like that prejudice against colour that has been proved to be so truly American.

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

There seems now to be a kind of moral stagnation in our midst. […] War, slavery, drunkenness, licentiousness and gluttony have been dragged naked before the people and all their abominations full brought to light. Yet with idiotic laugh we hug these monsters to our arms.... […] And how shall we account for this state of things? Depend upon it the degradation of women is the secret of all this woe—the inactivity of her head and heart. The voice of woman has been silenced, but man cannot fulfill his destiny alone—he cannot redeem his race unaided[.]

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

A new era is dawn<ing upon the world, […] when the millions now under the iron heel of the tyrant will assert their manhood, when woman yielding to the voice of the spirit within her will demand the recognition of her humanity, when her soul, grown too large for her chains, will burst the bands around her set and stand redeemed….

The slumber is broken and the sleeper has risen.

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sunlight
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

Persist to ask and it will come,

Seek not for rest in humbler home

So shalt thou see what few have seen

The palace home of King and Queen.

Related Characters: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (speaker)
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:
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Elizabeth Cady Stanton Character Timeline in Address on Woman’s Rights

The timeline below shows where the character Elizabeth Cady Stanton appears in Address on Woman’s Rights. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Address on Woman’s Rights
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
Women, Public Life, and American Prosperity Theme Icon
Addressing a group of ladies and gentlemen gathered in an unnamed village, Elizabeth Cady Stanton says that several weeks ago, she asked a gentleman living in the village to review... (full context)
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
Women, Public Life, and American Prosperity Theme Icon
The gentleman did so—but the comments he offered were so terse that Stanton found it difficult to reply to them. If that same gentleman is in attendance now,... (full context)
Women, Public Life, and American Prosperity Theme Icon
Stanton is usually very shy and not accustomed to public speaking. But she is so “nerved... (full context)
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
Men cannot speak for women, Stanton says, because they’ve all been raised and educated to believe that women are so profoundly... (full context)
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
Women, Public Life, and American Prosperity Theme Icon
Christianity and Women’s Worth Theme Icon
Women’s Rights Around the World Theme Icon
The idea of women’s rights, Stanton says, affects the entire family unit. Women around the world occupy a “degraded and inferior”... (full context)
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
Christianity and Women’s Worth Theme Icon
Society, in Stanton’s estimation, has hardly progressed at all since Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of... (full context)
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
Women, Public Life, and American Prosperity Theme Icon
Christianity and Women’s Worth Theme Icon
Next, Stanton turns her attentions to claims of men’s moral superiority. Only men are allowed to attend... (full context)
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
Women, Public Life, and American Prosperity Theme Icon
Christianity and Women’s Worth Theme Icon
Men, in Stanton’s estimation, are “infinitely woman’s inferior in every moral virtue.” Men are selfish where women are... (full context)
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
Women, Public Life, and American Prosperity Theme Icon
Christianity and Women’s Worth Theme Icon
Stanton clarifies that she isn’t calling for women to be or to act “less pure,” but... (full context)
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
Women, Public Life, and American Prosperity Theme Icon
Next, Stanton turns her attentions to men’s claims to physical superiority. She knows that many will be... (full context)
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
Women, Public Life, and American Prosperity Theme Icon
At the Seneca Falls convention, Stanton and her fellow women declared their own right to vote under the U.S. constitution. Women... (full context)
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
Women, Public Life, and American Prosperity Theme Icon
...pure to participate in public life alongside the very rowdiest and worst of men. But Stanton’s counterargument is that women, if allowed to participate more in the public sphere, might indeed... (full context)
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
Christianity and Women’s Worth Theme Icon
To women who say that the Bible commands they must obey their husbands, Stanton has a ready reply: she claims that these women have not read the Bible correctly.... (full context)
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
Women, Public Life, and American Prosperity Theme Icon
...necessary to scrape together the money to educate their sons—but men never return the favor. Stanton encourages those in attendance—especially women—to stop donating money to the education society. Women have worked... (full context)
Equality of the Sexes Theme Icon
Women, Public Life, and American Prosperity Theme Icon
Women’s Rights Around the World Theme Icon
Stanton finds it strange that men are “slow to admit” to the intellectual and moral power... (full context)