Reform Movements

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) was a social activist and leader in the early women’s rights movement.  In 1840, when she was a young newlywed, Stanton attended the World Anti-Slavery Society convention in London, which her husband was attending as a delegate.  It was there that Stanton met Lucretia Mott (1793-1880).  At the convention the women delegates from the United States were denied seats after some of the male U.S. delegates vehemently objected.  Mott, in response, demanded that she be treated with the same respect accorded any man—white or black.  During these heated discussions, Stanton marveled at the way Mott, a woman of forty-seven, held her own in the argument, “skillfully parried all their attacks…turning the laugh on them, and then by her earnestness and dignity silencing their ridicule and jeers.”

Following the Civil War, Stanton refused to support passage of the 15th amendment, which gave voting rights to black men but not to women.  She argued that the amendment essentially was based on the fallacy of false dilemma—either black men get the vote (but not women) or only white men can vote.  Instead she pointed out that there was a third option: both men and women should have the right to vote.  Unfortunately, her line of argument and her challenges to traditional beliefs about the role of women were ridiculed.  Although black men received the vote in 1870 with passage of the 15th amendment, it would be another 50 years before women were given the right to vote in the United States.  Nevertheless, Stanton’s persistence and refusal to back down in her fight for equal opportunity for women paved the way for the final passage of this amendment so that other women could achieve their life plans of equal participation in the political life of the country.

Section A: Elizabeth Cady Stanton had close friends such as Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony in her fight for women’s rights.  Discuss ways in which having a support network of people who are skilled critical thinkers can enhance your ability not to use or fall for faulty reasoning.  Discuss ways in which you do, or could serve as a critical-thinking mentor to others. 

Section B: Why did middle-class women activists gravitate to the reform movements (antislavery, temperance, dress styles, prison conditions, peace, education, communitarianism)?  How were the reform movements excellent training grounds from which to promote and pursue a women’s rights movement? Why was the World Anti-Slavery Society Convention of 1840 the birthplace of the women’s rights movement?  Please provide 2-3 specific quotes from your Howard Zinn Readings.

Section C: What do you feel Douglass is trying to convey in his 4th of July Speech?  How are Douglass and Sojourner Truth’s experiences different with regard to other reform movements?  Provide specific examples from your readings and videos.

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