LATER YEARS

 

After passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, supported by the Equal Rights Association and prominent suffragists such as Stone, Blackwell, and Howe, the gap between Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other leaders of the women's movement widened. Stanton took issue with the fundamental religious leanings of several movement leaders. Unlike many of her colleagues, Stanton believed organized Christianity relegated women to an unacceptable position in society. She explored this view in The Woman's Bible, which elucidated a feminist understanding of biblical scripture. "The Woman's Bible" sought to correct the fundamental sexism Stanton saw as inherent in organized Christianity.[29] Stanton supported divorce rights, employment rights and property rights for women. The more conservative suffragists preferred to avoid these issues.[30]

Stanton's perspective on religion did not limit her. She wrote many of the more important documents and speeches of the women's rights movement. She was instrumental in promoting women's suffrage in New York, Missouri, Kansas and Michigan. It was included on the ballot in Kansas in 1867, and Michigan in 1874.
In 1868, Stanton made an unsuccessful bid for a U.S. Congressional seat from New York. She was also the primary force behind passage of the "Woman's Property Bill," that was eventually passed by the New York State Legislature.[31]

Unlike many modern feminists, Stanton believed that abortion was infanticide[32] She addressed the issue in various editions of The Revolution. In an 1873 letter to Julia Ward Howe recorded in Howe's diary at Harvard University Library, she wrote: "When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." She suggested that solutions to abortion would be found, at least in part, in the elevation and enfranchisement of women.

Stanton was active internationally in her later years. She spent a great deal of time in Europe, where her daughter and fellow feminist, Harriot Stanton Blatch, lived. In 1888 she helped prepare for the founding of the International Council of Women.

Two years later, Stanton opposed the merger of the National Woman's Suffrage Association with the more conservative and religious American Woman Suffrage Association. Over her objections, the organizations merged, creating the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Despite her opposition to the merger, Stanton became its first president, because of Susan B. Anthony's intervention. As a result of the Woman's Bible, Stanton was never popular among the religiously conservative members of the 'National American'.

On January 17, 1892, Stanton, Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Isabella Beecher Hooker addressed the issue of suffrage before the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. In contrast to prevailing attitude earlier in the century, the suffragists were cordially received. Members of the House listened carefully to their prepared statements. Stanton emphasized the value of the individual, and that value was not based on gender. Stanton eloquently expressed the need for women's voting rights and the importance of a new understanding of women's position in society and the fundamental value of women:

"The isolation of every human soul and the necessity of self-dependence must give each individual the right to choose his own surroundings. The strongest reason for giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her faculties, her forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the crippling influences of fearis the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life. The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe; equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birthright to self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself."[33]


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