On July 20, 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention convened for a second day. On the previous day, convention organizer Elizabeth Cady Stanton had read the Declaration of Sentiments. In the process of reviewing a list of attached resolutions, the group united to demand women’s right to vote in the United States.
Eleven of the resolutions proposed in the “Declaration” passed unanimously and without much argument yet, the resolution calling for women’s enfranchisement met with some opposition. Some attendees did not feel that the vote was an important or necessary goal. Lucretia Mott is quoted as having said, “Lizzie (E.C. Stanton), thou wilt make the convention ridiculous.” Former slave and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass stood with Stanton and argued forcefully for the absolute need and intrinsic value of the elective franchise for women.
After intense debate among those present, the historic assembly passed all twelve of the resolutions, including the following:
Resolved, That it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.
The Declaration of Sentiments was signed by 100 individuals, 62 women and 38 men. As a comparison, there were 56 signatures on the Declaration of Independence, all men. Although narrowly approved, passage of the suffrage resolution inaugurated seventy-two years of organized struggle for woman suffrage culminating in the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.
The Public Reaction to the Seneca Falls Convention
The fledgling women’s rights movement had no shortage of detractors. The various forces of opposition challenging the women’s rights movement during this time had many names, but in general are referred to as part of the anti-suffrage movement. In addition to the critiques found in newspapers, both at home and abroad, the backlash also included various political cartoons and propaganda.
- The Library’s exhibit Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote celebrates the efforts of those who participated in the Seneca Falls Convention and who continued fighting until the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote became a reality over 70 years later.
- The Declaration of Sentiments, resolutions, and excerpts from Stanton’s address are online in The First Convention Ever Called to Discuss the Civil and Political Rights of Women available through the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection. The suffrage campaign is documented with 167 books, pamphlets, and other artifacts gathered from the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) collection held in the Rare Book & Special Collections Division. Additional collections of interest include: Votes for Women: The Struggle for Women’s Suffrage; Selected Images from the Collections of the Library of Congress, Scrapbooks of Elizabeth Smith Miller and Anne Fitzhugh Miller included in the NAWSA collection, and Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party
- Learn more about the history and structure of the Wesleyan Chapel where the Seneca Falls Convention was held.
- American Women: A Gateway to Library of Congress Resources for the Study of Women’s History and Culture in the United States is simultaneously a guide, an online magnet for digitized women’s history materials drawn from a plethora of Library sources, and a gateway. One section of the guide describes the Women’s Suffrage collections held by the Manuscript Division.
- To learn more about Seneca Falls as a historic landmark, see the National Park Service’s site Women’s Rights National Historical Park.
- Explore several other Digital Collections highlighting Women’s History.