Elizabeth Cady Stanton

On this date in 1815, freethinker and founding mother of the feminist movement Elizabeth Cady was born in Johnstown, N.Y. Avid to please her eminent father — a judge and member of Congress — in the face of his bitter loss of all five sons, she excelled in academic studies and horseback riding. Barred as a young woman from college despite her lively, brilliant intellect, she married young antislavery agent Henry Stanton. Their 1840 honeymoon took them to the fateful World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London. Her eyes were opened to women's subjugation, and religion's role in keeping women subordinate, after she and other female abolition delegates were humiliatingly curtained off from debate, at clergy instigation. At 32, the harried housewife and mother (eventually of 7) instigated and planned, with Lucretia Mott and three other women, the world's first woman's rights convention. The historic Seneca Falls convention met on July 19-20, 1848. Stanton's "shocking" suffrage plank won endorsement and galvanized women for the next 72 years. She recalled later how "the bible was hurled at us from every side" in a history of the early movement. Photo: Seneca Falls Historical Society

Stanton entered into a lifelong working partnership with Susan B. Anthony, founded and was first president of the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869, and served as the National American Woman Suffrage Association's controversial first president in 1890. Stanton wrote the 19th Amendment finally adopted in 1920 granting the vote to women. Nearly every speech Stanton wrote condemned religious dogma. In her first letter to Anthony, she wrote: "The Church is a terrible engine of oppression, especially as concerns woman" (April 2, 1852). In her diary, she recorded that her belief was "grounded on science, common sense, and love of humanity," not "fears of the torments of hell and promises of the joys of heaven" (Sept. 25, 1882). “You may go over the world and you will find that every form of religion which has breathed upon this earth has degraded woman,” Stanton told the 1885 National woman Suffrage Association Convention (The History of Woman Suffrage IV: 60-61). She dedicated her last years to freeing women from superstition, writing The Woman's Bible (1895, 1898). In 1898, that book was officially repudiated by the very suffrage movement Stanton had formed. The last article she wrote before her death was "An Answer to Bishop Stevens" urging people to "embrace truth as it is revealed today by human reason." D. 1902.

“I have endeavoured to dissipate these religious superstitions from the minds of women, and base their faith on science and reason, where I found for myself at least that peace and comfort I could never find in the Bible and the church. . . the less they believe, the better for their own happiness and development. . . .

For fifty years the women of this nation have tried to dam up this deadly stream that poisons all their lives, but thus far they have lacked the insight or courage to follow it back to its source and there strike the blow at the fountain of all tyranny, religious superstition, priestly power, and the canon law.”

—-Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "The Degraded Status of Woman in the Bible," 1896

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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