Elizabeth Cady Stanton WOMEN'S CONSORTIUM
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EARLY MARRIED LIFE

 

As a young woman, Elizabeth Cady met Henry Brewster Stanton through her early involvement in the temperance and abolition movements. Henry was an acquaintance of Elizabeth Cady's cousin, Gerrit Smith, an abolitionist and member of the "Secret Six" that supported John Brown at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Henry was a journalist, and an antislavery orator. Despite Daniel Cady's reservations, the couple married in 1840.


Soon after returning to the United States from their European honeymoon, the Stantons moved into the Cady household in Johnstown, New York. Henry studied law under his father-in-law until 1843, when the Stantons moved to Boston, Massachusetts. There, Henry joined a law firm.

While living in Boston, Elizabeth thoroughly enjoyed the social, political and intellectual stimulation that came with a constant round of abolitionist gatherings and meetings. She enjoyed the company of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Louisa May Alcott, Robert Lowell and Ralph Waldo Emerson, among others.

Throughout her marriage and eventual widowhood, Stanton used her husband's surname as part of her own. She signed her name Elizabeth Cady Stanton or E. Cady Stanton. But she refused to be addressed as Mrs. Henry B. Stanton, finding this title to be patronizing.

The Stanton marriage had its tension and disagreement. Because of employment, travel, and finances, husband and wife lived apart often. The couple were very similar in temperament and ambition, but differed in their views on certain issues, including women's rights. In 1842, abolitionist reformer Sarah Grimke counseled Elizabeth in a letter: "Henry greatly needs a humble, holy companion and thou needest the same." In spite of the challenges, the marriage lasted forty-seven years, until Henry's death in 1887.

In 1847, the Stantons moved from Boston to Seneca Falls, New York. Henry's health was fragile and the New England winters had been hard on him. Elizabeth's father purchased their new home for them. Elizabeth, at age 31, loved motherhood and assumed primary responsibility for rearing the children. But she had great difficulty adjusting to her new role as rural housewife. She was increasingly unsatisfied by the lack of intellectual companionship and stimulation in Seneca Falls.

The Stantons had six carefully planned children,  between 1842 and 1856. The couple's last four children, two daughters and two sons, were born in Seneca Falls. Stanton asserted that her children were conceived under a program she called "voluntary motherhood." Even though she firmly believed in achieving rights for women, her choice to be a mother was a deliberate one. The Stantons' seventh and last child, Robert, was an unplanned baby born in 1859. Elizabeth was age 44.

As an antidote to the boredom and loneliness she experienced in Seneca Falls, Stanton became increasingly involved in the community. By 1848, she had established ties to like-minded women in the area. Also, she was firmly committed to the nascent women's rights movement and ready to engage in organized activism.

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