We Now Demand Our Right to Vote (1848)

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, about 1870
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, about 1870.

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In 1848, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention, the first such convention to call for women's rights. The issue of women voting was the most difficult to pass in the resolutions passed at that convention; all the other resolutions made it through unanimously, but the idea that women should vote was more controversial. 

The following is Elizabeth Cady Stanton's defense of the call for women's suffrage in the resolutions that she and Mott had drafted and the assembly passed. Notice in her argument that she alleges that women already have the right to vote. She argues that women are not demanding some new right, but one that should already be theirs by right of citizenship.

Original: We Now Demand Our Right to Vote, July 19, 1848.

Summary of We Now Demand Our Right to Vote

I. The specific purpose of the convention is to discuss civil and political rights and wrongs.

  • Social life, such as making husbands "just, generous, and courteous" and to have men take care of infants and dress like women, is not the topic.
  • Women value their "loose, flowing garments" as "more artistic" than men's, so men should not fear that women are going to try to change their attire. And perhaps men do know that such attire is preferable—look at the religious, judicial, and civil leaders who wear loose flowing robes, including the Pope. Women will "not molest you" in experimenting with clothing, even if it is restrictive.

II. The protest is against "a form of government existing without consent of the governed."

  • Women want to be free in the same way men are, want to have representation in government since women are taxed, want to change laws that are unfair to women and permit male privileges such as punishing their wives, taking their wages, property and even children in a separation.
  • Such laws as men have passed to control women are disgraceful.
  • In particular, women demand the right to vote. Objections based on weakness are not logical, as weak men are able to vote. "All white men in this country have the same rights, however, they may differ in mind, body, or estate." (Stanton, who was also active in the 19th century North American Black activist movement, was well aware that such rights applied to White men, not to enslaved men, or many freed Black men.)

III. Stanton declares that the vote already is a woman's right.

  • The question is how to get the vote.
  • Women are not able to exercise a right to vote despite many men who are ignorant or "silly" are able to do so, and that is insulting to the dignity of women.
  • Women have pledged with pens, tongues, fortunes and wills to achieve this right.
  • Women shall repeat the "truth that no just government can be formed without the consent of the governed" until they have won the vote.

IV. The times are seeing many moral failures and "the tide of vice is swelling, and threatens the destruction of everything...."

  • The world thus needs a purifying force.
  • Because "the voice of woman has been silenced in the state, the church, and the home," she cannot help man to improve society.
  • Women are better at connecting with the oppressed and disadvantaged than men are.

V. The degradation of women has poisoned "the very fountains of life" and so America cannot be a "truly great and virtuous nation."

  • "So long as your women are slaves you may throw your colleges and churches to the winds."
  • Humans are interconnected so violence against women, degradation of women, affects all.

VI. Women need to find their voices, like Joan of Arc did, and similar enthusiasm.

  • Women need to speak, even if greeted with bigotry, prejudice, opposition.
  • Women need to oppose entrenched customs and authority.
  • Women need to carry the banners of their cause even against the storm, with lightning showing clearly the words on the banners, Equality of Rights.
View Article Sources
  1. We Now Demand Our Right to Vote.” Womens History with Jone Johnson Lewis, 28 July 2016.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "We Now Demand Our Right to Vote (1848)." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/we-now-demand-our-right-to-vote-3530449. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2023, April 5). We Now Demand Our Right to Vote (1848). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/we-now-demand-our-right-to-vote-3530449 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "We Now Demand Our Right to Vote (1848)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/we-now-demand-our-right-to-vote-3530449 (accessed May 29, 2023).