Oct 05

Equal Rights for Women

Natalie Wainwright 


F451 Composition
Equal Rights For Women
    What if the world went up in flames? What if everything you owned and knew was destroyed and burned to ashes? But what if you could save one text? Which one would you save? I would save the Declaration of Sentiments, a political document written primarily by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It was written to promote equal rights of women and is a response to the Declaration of Independence. I would save this text to preserve women’s rights, which we have tried so hard to get. We have come a long way and it took a lot of work to achieve equal rights. The Declaration of Sentiments preserves that work. The Declaration was read at the Seneca Falls convention in July 1948. It was followed by twelve resolutions, all of which were eventually passed by law. 

    The Declaration of Sentiments is a powerful text that everyone should absolutely read. It begins by asserting that both genders, male and female, are endowed with unalienable rights - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It argues that if a government fails to provide those rights to all who are under it, the people have a right to rebel and insist on a new government. The Declaration of Sentiments goes on to make it clear that women are oppressed in society, by giving sixteen examples of the unjust treatment of women. The examples include women not having marriage rights or divorce rights, being shut out of colleges, and not having property rights. While a man could own property and decide when he wanted to get married or divorced, once a woman got married, she lost her identity and was part of her husband’s  identity. Everything that she “owned” was no longer hers and belonged to her husband. She was like a slave to him; she had to promise obedience. He was her master. She did not have the right to sue or be sued. If they decided to get divorced and they had a child, the man had the right to decide where the child would live, regardless of the woman’s opinion. A man could go to any college he wanted, but women were shut out of most schools. When women went to church, they were in a lower position than the men. Rights were given to the most ignorant of men, even the natives and foreigners, but not to women. Women were forced to submit to laws that they had no say in, because all the men voted on laws, not women. They were not recognized by the government unless they could be used or if the government could profit off of her property. Men had oppressed and suppressed women for years, depriving them of basic human rights and forcing them to live a submissive and dependent life. Because of all of this, Elizabeth Cady Stanton writes, women should immediately have access to the basic rights of American citizens, which women are. The Declaration of Sentiments was followed by twelve resolutions. These resolutions included a woman’s right to vote, equal expectations of men and women, and that women are equal to men. All twelve resolutions were adopted except for the voting rights. Suffrage movements started and went on for almost forty years! Eventually, in 1920, women gained the right to vote. This was due, in part, to the Declaration of Sentiments and the work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 

After the Declaration of Sentiments was presented at the Seneca Falls Convention, women started to stand up for themselves and their rights. The suffrage movement started and many new organizations were formed in support of women. The National Woman's rights Convention and the National Woman's Suffrage Convention were established. These two associations petitioned and tried to gain support for women’s suffrage. They traveled state by state and campaigned in favor of women’s rights to vote. The Declaration of Sentiments was really a turning point for women, and it helped women gain the right to vote and many other things. Thanks to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the other amazing women at the Seneca Falls convention, I can now vote and enjoy the same rights as men. 

I want to save this text because I believe that every human being, no matter their gender, skin color, race, or sexuality, should be treated equally and have equal rights. The Declaration of Independence states that “All men are created equal” (Jefferson 1), but men are not the only people who live in America. A woman is not any less of a person because she is a woman. The Declaration of Sentiments makes this very clear and that is why I chose to save this text, to ensure that “All men AND women are created equal.” (Stanton 1). Elizabeth Cady Stanton was so brave to stand up for her rights and make a statement. For all of American history, women had been subordinate to men. Most men were opposed to women being equal and ridiculed those who tried to fight for equal rights. It was an extremely courageous thing to do, especially when directly quoting the Declaration of Independence. American citizens were loyal to the Declaration of Independence, so it was a risk to change it and make a better version. It could have been taken the wrong way and easily offended people, but Elizabeth Cady Stanton took risks and bold moves for the good of other women. She risked her reputation and being ridiculed, and took a stand against the unjust treatment of women. Thank you, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 

 It took a long time for women to gain the right to vote, and the fight for equal pay and equality in the workplace continues to this day. Women have come so far and we must continue to push for gender equality on all levels. If the world went up in flames and we lost the Declaration of Sentiments, it would be devastating to women in our society. It would be much better and easier to rebuild the world if the Declaration of Sentiments was saved.