ADDRESS:FIRST WOMEN'S-RIGHTS CONVENTION

delivered by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, on July 19, 1848


  
  We have met here today to discuss our rights and wrongs,
  civil and political, and not, as some have supposed, to go
  into the detail of social life alone.  We do not propose to
  petition the legislature to make our husbands just,
  generous, and courteous, to seat every man at the head of a
  cradle, and to clothe every woman in male attire.  None of
  these points, however important they may be considered by
  leading men, will be touched in this convention.  As to
  their costume, the gentlemen need feel no fear of our
  imitating that, for we think it in violation of every
  principle of taste, beauty, and dignity; notwithstanding all
  the contempt cast upon our loose, flowing garments, we still
  admire the graceful folds, and consider our costume far more
  artistic than theirs.  Many of the nobler sex seem to agree
  with us in this opinion, for the bishops, priests, judges,
  barristers, and lord mayors of the first nation on the
  globe, and the Pope of Rome, with his cardinals, too, all
  wear the loose flowing robes, thus tacity acknowledging that
  the male attire is neither dignified nor imposing.  No, we
  shall not molest you in your philosophical experiments with
  stocks, pants, high-heeled boots, and Russian belts.  Yours
  be the glory to discover, by personal experience, how long
  the kneepan can resist the terrible strapping down which you
  impose, in how short time the well-developed muscles of the
  throat can be reduced to mere threads by the constant
  pressure of the stock, how high the heel of a boot must be
  to make a short man tall, and how tight the Russian belt may
  be drawn and yet have wind enough left to sustain life.
  
  But we are assembled to protest against a form of government
  existing without the consent of the governed -- to declare
  our right to be free as man is free, to be represented in
  the government which we are taxed to support, to have such
  disgraceful laws as give man the power to chastise and
  imprison his wife, to take the wages which she earns, the
  property which she inherits, and, in case of separation, the
  children of her love; laws which make her the mere dependent
  on his bounty.  It is to protest against such unjust laws as
  these that we are assembled today, and to have them, if
  possible, forever erased from our statute books, deeming
  them a shame and a disgrace to a Christian republic in the
  nineteenth century.  We have met
 
  To uplift woman's fallen divinity
  Upon an even pedestal with man's.
  And, strange as it may seem to many, we now demand our right
  to vote according to the declaration of the government under
  which we live.  This right no one pretends to deny.  We need
  not prove ourselves equal to Daniel Webster to enjoy this
  privilege, for the ignorant Irishman in the ditch has all
  the civil rights he has.  We need not prove our muscular
  power equal to this same Irishman to enjoy this privilege,
  for the most tiny, weak, ill-shaped stripling of twenty-one
  has all the civil rights of the Irishman.  We have no
  objection to discuss the question of equality, for we feel
  that the weight of argument lies wholly with us, but we wish
  the question of equality kept distinct from the question of
  rights, for the proof of the one does not determine the
  truth of the other.  All white men in this country have the
  same rights, however they may differ in mind, body, or
  estate.
  
  The right is ours.  The question now is: how shall we get
  possession of what rightfully belongs to us?  We should not
  feel so sorely grieved if no man who had not attained the
  full stature of a Webster, Clay, Van Buren, or Gerrit Smith
  could claim the right of the elective franchise.  But to
  have drunkards, idiots, horse-racing, rum-selling rowdies,
  ignorant foreigners, and silly boys fully recognized, while
  we ourselves are thrust out from all the rights that belong
  to citizens, it is too grossly insulting to the dignity of
  woman to be longer quietly submitted to.  The right is ours. 
  Have it, we must.  Use it, we will.  The pens, the tongues,
  the fortunes, the indomitable wills of many women are
  already pledged to secure this right.  The great truth that
  no just government can be formed without the consent of the
  governed we shall echo and re-echo in the ears of the unjust
  judge, until by continual coming we shall weary him  
  
  There seems now to be a kind of moral stagnation in our
  midst.  Philanthropists have done their utmost to rouse the
  nation to a sense of its sins.  War, slavery, drunkenness,
  licentiousness, gluttony, have been dragged naked before the
  people, and all their abominations and deformities fully
  brought to light, yet with idiotic laugh we hug those
  monsters to our breasts and rush on to destruction.  Our
  churches are multiplying on all sides, our missionary
  societies, Sunday schools, and prayer meetings and
  innumerable charitable and reform organizations are all in
  operation, but still the tide of vice is swelling, and
  threatens the destruction of everything, and the battlements
  of righteousness are weak against the raging elements of sin
  and death.  Verily, the world waits the coming of some new
  element, some purifying power, some spirit of mercy and
  love.  The voice of woman has been silenced in the state,
  the church, and the home, but man cannot fulfill his destiny
  alone, he cannot redeem his race unaided.  There are deep
  and tender chords of sympathy and love in the hearts of the
  downfallen and oppressed that woman can touch more
  skillfully than man.
  
  The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous
  nation, because in the degradation of woman the very
  fountains of life are poisoned at their source.  It is vain
  to look for silver and gold from mines of copper and lead. 
  It is the wise mother that has the wise son.  So long as
  your women are slaves you may throw your colleges and
  churches to the winds.  You can't have scholars and saints
  so long as your mothers are ground to powder between the
  upper and nether millstone of tyranny and lust.  How seldom,
  now, is a father's pride gratified, his fond hopes realized,
  in the budding genius of his son!  The wife is degraded,
  made the mere creature of caprice, and the foolish son is
  heaviness to his heart.  Truly are the sins of the fathers
  visited upon the children to the third and fourth
  generation.  God, in His wisdom, has so linked the whole
  human family together that any violence done at one end of
  the chain is felt throughout its length, and here, too, is
  the law of restoration, as in woman all have fallen, so in
  her elevation shall the race be recreated.
  
  "Voices" were the visitors and advisers of Joan of Arc.  Do
  not "voices" come to us daily from the haunts of poverty,
  sorrow, degradation, and despair, already too long unheeded. 
  Now is the time for the women of this country, if they would
  save our free institutions, to defend the right, to buckle
  on the armor that can best resist the keenest weapons of the
  enemy -- contempt and ridicule.  The same religious
  enthusiasm that nerved Joan of Arc to her work nerves us to
  ours.  In every generation God calls some men and women for
  the utterance of truth, a heroic action, and our work today
  is the fulfilling of what has long since been foretold by
  the Prophet -- Joel 2:28: "And it shall come to pass
  afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh;
  and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."  We do not
  expect our path will be strewn with the flowers of popular
  applause, but over the thorns of bigotry and prejudice will
  be our way, and on our banners will beat the dark storm
  clouds of opposition from those who have entrenched
  themselves behind the stormy bulwarks of custom and
  authority, and who have fortified their position by every
  means, holy and unholy.  But we will steadfastly abide the
  result.  Unmoved we will bear it aloft.  Undauntedly we will
  unfurl it to the gale, for we know that the storm cannot
  rend from it a shred, that the electric flash will but more
  clearly show to us the glorious words inscribed upon it,
  "Equality of Rights"