WORKING FOR SUFFRAGE

 

Although Henry Stanton sympathized with his wife's ambitions for a wider role in the world, he was not wealthy, and she remained home with her five children for many years. All the same, she was able to do some writing and speaking for the feminist cause. In 1848 she organized America's first woman's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, where the Stantons lived. She also composed a declaration of principles, which described the history of humankind as one in which men had repeatedly and intentionally suppressed the rights of women in order to establish "absolute tyranny" over them. Despite opposition, she persuaded the convention to approve a resolution calling for women's suffrage, or women's right to vote.

The Civil War (1861-65) was fought between the northern states and southern states to decide whether or not slavery would be allowed in new territories, and whether or not the South would leave the Union to form an independent nation. During the war Stanton and her ally Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) created the National Woman's Loyal League to build support for what became the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which ended slavery in the United States. Once the slaves were free, Stanton and Anthony worked to ensure that women would be given the vote along with former male slaves. However, it was thought that if the struggle to gain the right to vote for black men was associated with votes for women, neither black men nor women of any color would get the vote.

This opposition only made Stanton and her colleagues more stubborn. Their campaign finally divided the women's suffrage movement into two camps. One was their own, New York-based band of uncompromising radicals (people who are extreme in their political beliefs), called the National Woman Suffrage Association. The other was a more conservative group, the American Woman Suffrage Association, which was centered in Boston and supported the idea that attaining the vote for black men was more important than demanding the vote for women. There were several differences in the positions of the two organizations, and a good deal of personal hostility developed between them. By 1890, however, these problems were overcome, and the two organizations merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Stanton became the group's president.

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