Women’s Declaration of Independence
The following is a copy of the “Declaration of Women’s Sentiments” presented at the Seneca Falls Women’s Convention in 1848 with permission from Paul Halsall of Fordham University. First printing was in August, 1997 and updated in November 1998, http://firstname.lastname@example.org. This document was presented to about 400 delegates both men and women who attended the convention in 1848 and is preserved as the document that inspired the suffragette movement in the United States. Of those present 68 women and 32 men signed the document. Those refusing, including many influential leaders in the movement to abolish slavery, abstained because of the call for enfranchisement of women. The national response at this time was to give no attention to the document at all and give absolutely no press coverage except the small ad purchased to announce the convention. The women themselves were labeled irritants and crazies.
The Declaration of SentimentsWhen, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer. while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled. The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyrranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.
He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.
He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men--both natives and foreigners.
Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides.
He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.
He has made her, morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master--the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement.
He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes, and in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given, as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women--the law, in all cases, going upon a false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his hands.
After depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single, and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it. (How long did we support this government without representation so that we find ourselves totally controlled economically today)? My thoughts in parentheses.
He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration. He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.
He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her.
He allows her in church, as well as state, but a subordinate position, claiming apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the church.
He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated, but deemed of little account in man.
He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and to her God.
He has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.
Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation--in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States.
from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, A History of Woman Suffrage , vol. 1 (Rochester, N.Y.: Fowler and Wells, 1889), pages 70-71.
This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.
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(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997, updated November 1998
The original “Declaration of Independence” was written in 1776 and supposedly, that is what laid the basis for this great “republic” and “democracy.” The white men it gave freedom fared very well, and they built a great country and amassed a tremendous amount of wealth, first by genocide of original inhabitants, slavery and the work and toil of women denied enfranchisement for another 70+ years after the Women’s Declaration of Independence. For any woman who believes this government that exists today was the result of some great sacrifices the Founding Fathers made for us, perhaps you need to review your history books and get the true story of the women’s movement – not the propaganda imposed by the male leaders of both political parties. Yes, one of them is of African ethnicity, but as far as I know, his ancestors were never slaves. In addition, even male slaves got the right to vote before women.
Read about your heritage and what it was that these “Founding Mothers” wanted for the women they represented. It has been only recently that political parties have given attention to women, primarily because of their voting power and, like the political machines of the early twentieth century; they are offering women crumbs to get their votes so they can continue the militaristic, fascist government they have been running since 1776. I know I write these words at the risk of being labeled another crazy, like Jane Addams. Ms. Addams was put of the Red List of the 1920’s for her work that resulted with her winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933. What was her work? She fought to keep us out of war in 1915 and then to feed the starving children of Europe, Germany and the Soviet Union in particular, was a leader in the suffragette movement, supported the International Court of Arbitration at The Hague, the League of Nations, fought to get child labor laws and better working conditions for women in the garment industry and founded what became the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). To learn about the politics that inspired the women’s movement, read Jane Addams “Newer Ideals for Peace” 1907 and “Bread and Peace in Time of War,” 1922.
Keep these things in mind when you go to the polls and find the candidates that best support women’s political heritage from your local council, state representatives, governors, Congressional representatives and senators, and finally, the President. By the way, you know your vote will not count if you live in a state that is decidedly in favor of one of the major candidates. Your vote does not elect the President anyway; that’s up to an organization called the Electoral College.