Seneca Falls Convention

Background and Details

Black and white image of two elderly women sitting at a desk with books and papers
Susan B. Anthony (L) reads a book with Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

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The Seneca Falls Convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. Many individuals cite this convention as the beginning of the women's movement in America. However, the idea for the convention came about at another protest meeting: the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention held in London. At that convention, the female delegates were not allowed to participate in the debates. Lucretia Mott wrote in her diary that even though the convention was titled a 'World' convention, "that was mere poetical license." She had accompanied her husband to London, but had to sit behind a partition with other ladies such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton. They took a dim view of their treatment, or rather mistreatment, and the idea of a women's convention was born.

The Declaration of Sentiments

In the interim between the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention and the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton composed the Declaration of Sentiments, a document declaring the rights of women modeled on the Declaration of Independence. It is worth noting that upon showing her Declaration to her husband, Mr. Stanton was less than pleased. He stated that if she read the Declaration at the Seneca Falls Convention, he would leave town.

The Declaration of Sentiments contained several resolutions including ones that stated a man should not withhold a woman's rights, take her property, or refuse to allow her to vote. The 300 participants spent July 19th and 20th arguing, refining and voting on the Declaration. Most of the resolutions received unanimous support. However, the right to vote had many dissenters including one very prominent figure, Lucretia Mott.

Reaction to the Convention

The convention was treated with scorn from all corners. The press and religious leaders denounced the happenings at Seneca Falls. However, a positive report was printed at the office of The North Star, Frederick Douglass' newspaper. As the article in that newspaper stated, "[T]here can be no reason in the world for denying to woman the exercise of the elective franchise...." 

Many leaders of the women's movement were also leaders in the North American 19-century anti-enslavement movement and vice-versa. However, the two movements while occurring at approximately the same time were in fact very different. While the anti-enslavement movement was fighting a tradition of tyranny against the African-American, the women's movement was fighting a tradition of protection. Many men and women felt that each sex had its own place in the world. Women were to be protected from such things as voting and politics. The difference between the two movements is emphasized by the fact that it took women 50 more years to achieve suffrage than it did African-American men.

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Your Citation
Kelly, Martin. "Seneca Falls Convention." ThoughtCo, Dec. 27, 2022, Kelly, Martin. (2022, December 27). Seneca Falls Convention. Retrieved from Kelly, Martin. "Seneca Falls Convention." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 1, 2023).