Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Suffragist, abolitionist, writer
Born: November 12, 1815, in Johnstown, New York
Lived in: Tenafly, New Jersey
Died: October 26, 1902, in New York City
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2014: Public Service

If there was a battle for social justice to be fought anywhere during her long lifetime, chances are Elizabeth Cady Stanton was on the front line.

Born Elizabeth Cady, she was one of 11 children. Her father was a wealthy landowner, attorney, and conservative politician who served in the U.S. Congress and as a justice on the New York Supreme Court. Her mother was a more progressive thinker, who supported the abolition of slavery and believed in women’s rights.

Well-educated for a young woman of her era, Elizabeth studied mathematics and languages and became a skilled debater. Through a cousin, she was exposed to the abolitionist movement and met her future husband, the abolitionist Henry Stanton. Elizabeth already was developing ideas about social justice. When she and Stanton married in 1840, she insisted they omit the word “obey” from their vows.

The young couple moved first to Boston, where Henry began practicing law, and then to Seneca Falls, in Western New York. They started a family that would grow to seven children. Stanton enjoyed motherhood, but wanted more. She developed a friendship with the Lucretia Mott, a Quaker minister, abolitionist and suffragist. In 1848, Mott and several other Quaker women visited Stanton and together they hastily organized a women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls.

While only attended by about 300 women and men, the Seneca Falls Convention achieved national attention and became a pivotal moment in the movement for women’s rights. Stanton was the principal author of the convention’s Declaration of Rights and Sentiments, which included a call for women’s suffrage.

Stanton met the Quaker activist Susan B. Anthony in 1851; the two became lifelong partners in the women’s movement. They wrote speeches together and in 1868 launched a suffragist newspaper, The Revolution. The following year, they formed the National Women Suffrage Association (NWSA). During this period, Stanton became involved in the temperance movement (against alcohol) and worked for women’s property rights, divorce reform and, until the Civil War, the abolition of slavery.

In 1866, Stanton became the first woman to seek a seat in the U.S. Congress. Running as an independent, she received 24 votes. In 1868, Stanton used money from her inheritance to buy a country home in Tenafly. She lived there for two decades; today the home is a National Historic Landmark.

Stanton and Anthony continued to speak out against male domination in key aspects of American life. Finally, in 1878, they convinced Senator Arlen Sargent to introduce a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. It would take more than 40 years for the measure to be ratified as the 19th Amendment. In subsequent years, Stanton travelled in Europe, meeting with leaders of the women’s movement there; co-authored the massive “History of Woman Suffrage,” which eventually was published in six volumes; and earned substantial sums giving lectures around the country.

When the NWSA merged with another women’s group in 1890 to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Stanton was named the new group’s first president. In 1895, she published “The Woman’s Bible,” a controversial work that criticized the Bible for its characterization of women.

Stanton continued to speak out for women’s rights and social justice until her death in 1902 at the age of 86. The 19th Amendment, her ultimate memorial, was finally ratified 18 years after her passing.

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