Skip to main content

Today in History - July 19

The Seneca Falls Convention

On July 19, 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention convened. Heralded as the first American women’s rights convention, the two day event was held in the Wesleyan Chapel External in Seneca Falls, New York. The convention had been advertised on July 11, 1848 in the Seneca County Courier. Despite the minimal amount of publicity , there were an estimated 300 attendees at the inaugural meeting. It is not surprising that many of the convention attendees lived locally, as there were a number of abolitionists living nearby. Many women and men working in the anti-slavery movement eventually became a part of the struggle to obtain equal rights for women. Convention organizer Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her husband Henry B. Stanton were both well-known and active abolitionists. In fact, all five women credited with organizing the Seneca Falls Convention were also active in the abolitionist movement.
[Women's Rights Convention.] Seneca County Courier (Seneca County, New York), July 14, 1848. Women’s Rights National Historical Park. National Park Service.
Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton made her first public speech on the initial day of the convention, which provided a framework with which to understand the purpose and goals of the Seneca Falls gathering:

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 test 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 as a shame and a disgrace to a Christian republic in the nineteenth century.…

In addition to her speech, Elizabeth Cady Stanton also read aloud the Declaration of Sentiments, which was then discussed at length. The Declaration of Sentiments was modeled after the Declaration of Independence, but with the express goal of granting women the rights and freedoms that the Declaration of Independence granted to men. On the second day of the convention, the resolutions would again be debated over and put to a vote. Notably, while only women were allowed to attend the first day of the Seneca Falls Convention, the general public, including men, were invited to participate in the second day.
Report of the Woman’s Rights Convention, held at Seneca Falls, New York, July 19th and 20th, 1848. Proceedings and Declaration of Sentiments. John Dick at the North Star Office, Rochester, New York, July 19 20, 1848. Miller NAWSA Suffrage Scrapbooks, 1897-1911. Rare Book & Special Collections Division

Learn More

Additional Library of Congress Collections Documenting the Campaign for Women’s Suffrage Include:

John Muir

On July 19, 1869, naturalist John Muir set pen to paper to capture his experience of awakening in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Published in 1911, My First Summer in the Sierra External is based on Muir’s original journals External and sketches External of his 1869 stay in the vicinity of the Yosemite Valley. His journal tracks his three-and-a-half-month visit to the Yosemite region and his ascent of Mt. Hoffman and other Sierra peaks. Along the way, he describes the flora and fauna as well as the geography and geology of the area.
[John Muir, full length portrait, facing right, seated on rock with lake and trees in background]. c1902. The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920

Watching the daybreak and sunrise. The pale rose and purple sky changing softly to daffodil yellow and white, sunbeams pouring through the passes between the peaks and over the Yosemite domes, making their edges burn; the silver firs in the middle ground catching the glow on their spiry tops, and our camp grove fills and thrills with the glorious light. Everything awakening alert and joyful…

John Muir, Entry for “July 19 External” from My First Summer in the Sierra External, 1911. “California As I Saw It”: First-Person Narratives of California’s Early Years, 1849-1900.

Muir immigrated from Scotland to Wisconsin as a child. He attended the University of Wisconsin and began working as a mechanical inventor. After an 1867 industrial accident nearly blinded him, he abandoned his career as an inventor to work as a naturalist.
University of Wisconsin #2, Madison, Wis. Haines Photo Co., copyright claimant, c1911. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division
An early defender of the environment, Muir in 1876 advocated adoption of a federal forest conservation program. His popular articles and books describing Yosemite’s natural wonders inspired public support for the establishment of Yosemite National Park in 1890 and expansion of the park in 1906. At the same time, Muir continued to work and write as a serious scientist whose fieldwork in botany and geology enabled him to make lasting contributions. Alaska’s Muir Glacier is named for him. In 1892, Muir co-founded the Sierra Club External as an association explicitly dedicated to wilderness preservation and served until 1914 as its first president, shaping it into an organization whose leadership in political advocacy for protection of the natural world continues to this day.
[Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir on Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley, California, in 1903]. Underwood & Underwood, copyright claimant, c1906[photo taken 1903]. The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920
The popularity of President Theodore Roosevelt’s groundbreaking conservation program owed much to Muir’s writing. In 1903 Roosevelt and Muir visited the Yosemite region together. In 1908, Roosevelt issued a presidential proclamation establishing the Muir Woods National Monument in Marin County, California, in Muir’s honor. Muir died six years later. Although sorrow and disappointment at his failure to save Hetch Hetchy Valley from becoming a reservoir for San Francisco may well have contributed to his death, Muir had succeeded more than any other single individual in establishing the preservation of wild nature as a major American cultural and political value. The clarity of his vision and the eloquence of his writing continue to inspire environmentalists throughout the world.

Learn More

Search the following collections on John Muir to locate works by Muir, including The Mountains of California External, My First Summer in the Sierra External, and his autobiography, Story of My Boyhood and Youth External:

Search on John Muir in Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscape Survey for photographs and drawings of Muir’s home, now a National Historic Site.

Visit the Sierra Club’s John Muir Exhibit External. This fascinating presentation provides a wealth of information and links, including many photographs, a wide selection of electronic texts written by and about John Muir, and sound clips of songs written about or inspired by Muir’s work.

For access to current environmental protection bills under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, visit and browse major legislation using terms such as environmental protection or public lands.

Search on Yosemite or the names of other national parks in the following collections to see more images of America’s natural wonders: