Meanwhile, during the 1830s, American women started organizing anti-slavery associations and finally aligned themselves with the Abolitionist Movement of the north. However, when several American women tried to attend the World Anti-Slavery Convention which was held in London in 1840, they were not allowed to participate because of their gender (Timeline of Women’s Suffrage in the United States, 2008).
That London incident brought to the fore the sad plight of women in the United States. Cady Stanton, who was among the women delegates from the United States who were not recognized in that convention, met with Lucretia Mott, a Quaker preacher from the United States. They discussed the possibility of organizing a women’s convention upon their return to the county for the purpose of discussing the condition of American women (The Seneca Falls Convention, n. d. ).
However, the idea which germinated in London was not realized until eight years later with the chance second meeting between Stanton and Mott in Waterloo, New York. The two women were then able to form a core group which included Martha C. Wright, Mott’s sister, Mary Ann McClintock, and Jane Hunt. The group decided to convene American women “to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman” in the United States. The task of preparing a “Declaration of Sentiments” that would be the convention’s agenda fell on Stanton.
After declaring that “all men and women had been created equal” and listing down eighteen “injuries and usurpation on the part of man toward woman,” she prepared eleven resolutions for presentation to and approval of the convention, one of which was the assertion that all women are duty-bound to fight for women’s suffrage (The Seneca Falls Convention, n. d. ). The convention, dubbed the Seneca Falls Convention because it was held at the Wesleyan Methodist Church located in Seneca Falls, New York, attracted about 300 people, 40 of whom were men.
Unfortunately, after eight of the resolutions were immediately approved, the one about the women’s right to vote was met with hostility. The opposition included Lucrecia Mott herself who found the resolution not only ridiculous but shocking. After Stanton stood her ground and stated that women’s suffrage was critical because “…the power to make the laws was the right through which all other rights could be secured” it needed the intervention of Frederick Douglas, an emancipated slave who was the editor of the Rochester North Star to have the resolution concerning women’s suffrage approved.
Unfortunately, although the Seneca Falls Declaration was signed by one hundred men and women, some signatories withdrew their signatures after being bombarded later with severe criticism from several influential personalities. The legacy of the Seneca Falls Convention was an intensified campaign for women’s rights after the Civil War (The Seneca Falls Convention, n. d. ). The proposed Fourteenth Amendment, however, split the American women in 1869. The main issue of the split was the granting of voting rights to male emancipated slaves.
Some of their leaders like Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone supported the amendment. According to them, they believed that after the African Americans, the turn of the women would follow. Cady Stanton and Susan Anthony, on the other hand, rejected the amendment, claiming that it did not grant the women’s right-to-vote objective. As a result, two organizations emerged. The Woman Suffrage Association (WSA) under Lucy Stone and the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) headed by Stanton and Anthony.
The WSA pursued the issue on the level of the states while NWSA continued its work on the federal level, this time demanding for more rights for American women which included the right to own property (The Seneca Falls Convention, n. d. ). Meanwhile, NWSA put the Fourteenth Amendment to a test in 1872. First, Stanton and Anthony published the analysis made by Francis Minor, a lawyer and the husband of Virginia Minor, then the president of the Missouri WSA chapter.
Virginia Minor appealed to the United States Supreme Court for the reversal of the decision of a Missouri court which ruled against her petition to register and vote during the federal elections of 1872. In his analysis, Francis Minor stated that the exact words of the Fourteenth Amendment actually allowed women to vote, quoting the clause which read that: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. ” Minor argued that this clause clearly and without doubt confirmed the fact that women were considered citizens of the country and that any "provisions of the several state constitutions that exclude women from the franchise on account of sex, are violative alike of the spirit and letter of the federal Constitution. " Minor’s argument was simply that since women were clearly citizens of the country, they are entitled to the rights of all citizens including the right to vote (United States v. Susan B. Anthony: 1873).