The First Women’s Right’s Convention July 19, 1848

The first women’s rights convention was held on July 19 and 20 at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Seneca Falls . A crowd of 300 people, including 40 men attended. Ironically, no woman felt capable of presiding so Lucretia Mott’s husband, James Mott was enlisted to preside. All of the resolutions were passed unanimously except for woman suffrage, a progressive idea and not one which appealed to the predominantly Quaker audience. Frederick Douglass, a former slave and who was then editor of the Rochester North Star, urged the attendees to pass the women’s suffrage resolution. One hundred women and men signed the Seneca Falls Declaration.

The proceedings in Seneca Falls , followed a few days later by a meeting in Rochester , brought forth a torrent of sarcasm and ridicule from the press and pulpit. Frederick Douglass wrote in the North Star,  "A discussion of the rights of animals would be regarded with far more complacency by many of what are called the wise and the good of our land, than would be a discussion of the rights of woman." In another issue of the North Star published shortly after the convention, Douglass wrote, “In respect to political rights, we hold woman to be justly entitled to all we claim for man.  We go farther, and express our conviction that all political rights which it is expedient for man to exercise, it is equally so for women.  All that distinguishes man as an intelligent and accountable being, is equally true of woman; and if that government is only just which governs by the free consent of the governed, there can be no reason in the world for denying to woman the exercise of the elective franchise, or a hand in making and administering the laws of the land.  Our doctrine is, that “Right is of no sex.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, thrilled that James Gordon Bennett, a NY newspaper editor, printed the entire Declaration of Sentiments in the New York Herald said "Imagine the publicity given to our ideas by thus appearing in a widely circulated sheet like the Herald. It will start women thinking, and men too; and when men and women think about a new question, the first step in progress is taken."

Finally in 1920, the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women suffrage was passed. It was 72 years after the first women’s rights convention in 1848. Only one signer of the Seneca Falls Declaration was still alive to vote, Charlotte Woodward, a young worker in a glove manufacturing company. Contrary to popular belief Susan B. Anthony was not present at that first 1848 convention, but worked tirelessly for women’s suffrage but died in 1906, 14 years before women got the right to vote.