women's rights, women's suffrage

Women's History Month: Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY

March 07, 2010
by findingDulcinea Staff
In July 1848, the Women’s Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, N.Y. It was the opening salvo of the battle for women’s suffrage, although many years would pass before its proponents would finally achieve victory.

Women's Rights Convention: A Landmark Meeting

Although women would not obtain suffrage until nearly 70 years later, the Convention at Seneca Falls, N.Y., in July 1848 marked the beginning of the struggle for equal rights. Many key figures in the nascent women’s rights movement were present at the convention, including Elisabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Ann M’Clintock and Lucretia Mott. Men were also in attendance on the second day of the conference, including Frederick Douglass, the famous poet, abolitionist and advocate for women’s suffrage. The U.S. National Park Service outlines the groundbreaking convention, offering profiles of the participants and a full report of the Women’s Rights Convention, including the convention schedule and a transcript of Stanton’s famous address.

The women’s rights movement sprang from the frustration many women felt at being second-class citizens. In the early 19th century, for example, women were not allowed to speak publicly, as common opinion considered such activity unchaste and unfeminine. But the simultaneous rise of the abolitionist and temperance movements provided women with a common cause and a context to come together. Soon thereafter, the women’s rights movement was born.

Read about the background of the women’s rights movement at, where you’ll also find broad coverage of the history of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of American feminism, consider reading “Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women's Rights Movement” by Sally McMillen. In the book, McMillen outlines the lives of four founders of the women’s rights movement—Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone—and traces the influence of the movement through the subsequent 50 years of women’s history. Read a synopsis of the book in a review published by The Christian Science Monitor.

Implications of the Women's Rights Convention

The Seneca Falls convention made a lasting impact on American history. In addition to paving the way for female voters, the women’s rights movement also played a big part in aiding the abolitionist movement of the early 19th century. Even though universal suffrage was granted to men in 1870 (47 years before women were enfranchised), both the women’s movement and the abolitionists fought for the same cause, and each group frequently supported the other’s efforts. View this timeline of suffrage in the U.S. to see how challenging it was for women and blacks to finally become first-class citizens of the United States.

American society has come a long way since the days when women and blacks fought for the vote. As Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigned for the Democratic Party nomination (and Barack Obama was later elected the first African-American president of the United States), it became clear how far U.S. culture and society have come. In an article published in The Huffington Post, John Tepper Marlin explores the enduring influence of Seneca Falls on the 2008 election.

Visiting Seneca Falls

Seneca Falls has become a popular destination for visitors to upstate New York, not only because of its historical meaning, but also because of the beauty of the landscape. Known as the “Gateway to the Finger Lakes,” the village of Seneca Falls offers vineyards, hiking, state parks, water sports and, of course, lots of destinations for the history buff.

Visit the National Women’s Hall of Fame, or take a tour of the Village of Seneca Falls Heritage Area, which includes historical exhibits, programs and attractions.

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