The Declaration of Sentiments
In 1840, Lucretia Mott attended the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London,
England. Mott, a Quaker minister, was a strong abolitionist. She and the
Hicksite Quakers refused to use materials produced with slave labor, including
cotton and cane sugar. She worked as a teacher and at her school, met her
husband, James Mott. Together, the Motts sheltered runaway slaves and traveled
so that Lucretia could make abolition speeches. The couple was selected to
serve as delegates to the Convention because of their activities. But at the
Convention, Lucretia, along with all the other female delegates, was not
allowed to fully participate and was asked to leave.
At the Convention, Mott met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, whose husband Henry was
also a delegate. After the refusal to seat Mott and all other female
delegates, the pair discussed the need to hold a convention to discuss the
rights of women.
Stanton was also a staunch abolitionist, but she placed her family above her
abolitionist activities. She raised seven children. She later wrote speeches
for Susan B. Anthony, who gained more notoriety in the movement because of her
more public persona. Stanton was born into a wealthy New York family, and to
please her parents, tried to duplicate the academic successes of her brothers.
She had to convince her father to allow her to attend college, where she
studied philosophy and logic. She also studied her father and, as a judge, his
cases. She saw through his work how women suffered discrimination at the hands
of the law.
With these two women as the driving force behind a convention to address the
plight of women in 19th century society, the Seneca Falls Convention met. It
took eight years after the slavery convention, during which time Stanton
composed the Declaration of Sentiments. In July 1848, over 300 men and women
met in Seneca Falls, New York for the First Womens' Rights Convention. There,
the Declaration was debated and refined. The public release of the Declaration
of Sentiments triggered dialog among many women also interested in equal rights
and womens' suffrage. The Declaration was also met with strong criticism and
anger. The Declaration is one of the roots of the suffrage movement that
ultimately resulted the 19th Amendment being
added to the Constitution.
When, 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
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not
be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience has
shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable,
than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they were 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
He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective
He has compelled her to submit to law in the formation of which she had no
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 as 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
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 the 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.
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
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
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
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.
In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of
misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every
instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents,
circulate tracts, petition the state and national legislatures, and endeavor to
enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be
followed by a series of conventions embracing every part of the country.
Whereas, the great precept of nature is conceded to be that "man shall
pursue his own true and substantial happiness." Blackstone in his Commentaries
remarks that this law of nature, being coeval with mankind and dictated by God
himself, is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over
all the globe, in all countries and at all times; no human laws are of any
validity if contrary to this, and such of them as are valid derive all their
force, and all their validity, and all their authority, mediately and
immediately, from this original; therefore,
Resolved, That such laws as conflict, in any way, with the true and
substantial happiness of woman, are contrary to the great precept of nature and
of no validity, for this is "superior in obligation to any other."
Resolved, that all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in
society as her conscience shall dictate, or which place her in a position
inferior to that of man, are contrary to the great precept of nature and
therefore of no force or authority.
Resolved, that woman is man's equal, was intended to be so by the Creator,
and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as
Resolved, that the women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard
to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their
degradation by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor
their ignorance, by asserting that they have all the rights they want.
Resolved, that inasmuch as man, while claiming for himself intellectual
superiority, does accord to woman moral superiority, it is preeminently his
duty to encourage her to speak and teach, as she has an opportunity, in all
Resolved, that the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of
behavior that is required of woman in the social state also be required of man,
and the same transgressions should be visited with equal severity on both man
Resolved, that the objection of indelicacy and impropriety, which is so
often brought against woman when she addresses a public audience, comes with a
very ill grace from those who encourage, by their attendance, her appearance on
the stage, in the concert, or in feats of the circus.
Resolved, that woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed
limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the Scriptures have
marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere
which her great Creator has assigned her.
Resolved, that it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to
themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.
Resolved, that the equality of human rights results necessarily from the
fact of the identity of the race in capabilities and responsibilities.
Resolved, that the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and
untiring efforts of both men and women for the overthrow of the monopoly of the
pulpit, and for the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the
various trades, professions, and commerce.
Resolved, therefore, that, being invested by the Creator with the same
capabilities and same consciousness of responsibility for their exercise, it is
demonstrably the right and duty of woman, equally with man, to promote every
righteous cause by every righteous means; and especially in regard to the great
subjects of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to participate
with her brother in teaching them, both in private and in public, by writing
and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be used, and in any
assemblies proper to be held; and this being a self-evident truth growing out
of the divinely implanted principles of human nature, any custom or authority
adverse to it, whether modern or wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to
be regarded as a self-evident falsehood, and at war with mankind.