Women's Rights

Social reform movements, particularly the abolition and temperance movements, gave women a greater sense of empowerment through their participation. They began investing time and resources in charitable institutions, and from there, took on more public roles that moved them away from the domestic sphere. Many women abolitionists also became advocates for the rights of women.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were two of America's most important leaders in the nineteenth-century quest for women's rights. Both women had been active in the antislavery and temperance movements before building a mass movement for women's rights. Although neither lived to see the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the vote, Stanton and Anthony built the foundation for women's suffrage in the twentieth century. The first convention for women’s rights took place in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York within several miles of the Erie Canal, with 200 women in attendance. An even larger group attended a follow-up conference in Rochester several weeks later.

While advocating for the rights of women, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (left) met Susan B. Anthony (right) in 1851, and in 1869 they organized the National Woman Suffrage Association. Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery via Smithsonian Institution.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted the Declaration of Sentiments in July 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York on this table. Courtesy of National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center via Smithsonian Institution.

This photograph shows students at Syracuse University in July 1876. Because of the work of suffragists, many women found access to higher education more attainable in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.