The Women's Suffrage Movement Started with a Tea Party
Erin Blakemore (edited by Lea Bishop)
(This picture includes the women who met at the tea party in the article below. Seated third from the right is Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Susan B. Anthony is seated second from the left.)
On the surface, it was just another tea party- a well-behaved group of five women sipping tea in the genteel home of Jane Hunt, a well-to-do New York woman and Quaker.
But this tea party was not for shrinking violets. Taking place on July 9, 1848, Hunt's guests included Elizabeth Cady Stanton and three other Quakers - Lucretia Mott and her sister Martha Wright, and Mary Ann McClintock. The group spent the time freely airing their grievances about injustices toward women. Although they started the afternoon as individuals, by the end of the day they were at the helm of a collective movement that would change women's lives forever. Their discussion gave birth to the convention on women's rights that resulted in the formation of the American women's movement.
The women talked about important issues affecting women. Women couldn't get an education or vote. Their livelihoods and property all belonged to the men in their lives whether the women were married or single. They felt chained by a moral code that expected women to be submissive, flawless wives and mothers without giving them anything in return. All five women were independent minded women who had personally felt society's restrictions on them. Stanton and Mott, both ardent abolitionists, met at the World Anti-Slavery Convention as official American delegates. Despite their vigorous opposition, they were forced to sit on the sidelines and were not allowed to speak or to vote. Frustrated by their faith's reluctance to deal with important social issues like the abolition of slavery and women's rights, the Quaker women formed a new, more progressive branch of the Quaker movement which allowed women and men to worship together.
All five women resolved to "do and dare anything" and decided to quickly move forward. Soon they were writing an advertisement for the local paper which encouraged women and men to gather in Seneca Falls just 10 days later for "a Convention to discuss the social, civil and religious condition and rights of women." Because women were discouraged and frequently barred from speaking in public, few of the organizers had any public-speaking experience, and they were uncertain how to organize a convention. Despite this, the Seneca Falls convention drew hundreds of attendees and was the spark that kindled the American women's movement. These 'inexperienced' women drafted an agenda and a Declaration of Sentiments that would galvanize American women.
Together, Hunt and her guests envisioned an equality that would smash the sexist norms of their day, and they did it with cups of tea in hand.
To read this article in its entirety, please go to https://www.history.com/news/early-womens-rights-suffrage-seneca-falls-elizabeth-cady-stanton.