Against the Tide: Women Reformers in American Society

By Paul A. Cimbala; Randall M. Miller | Go to book overview

place and support growing for the idea that women deserved a political voice, agitation for woman suffrage required organizing and lobbying skills of a sort that Stanton neither enjoyed nor excelled in. It needed builders of institutions and planners of political strategy. It called for dull meetings and simplification of ideas. By removing herself from the daily demands of leadership, she could write and criticize. In the two decades that remained of her life, Stanton produced five books and hundreds of articles, published in everything from Hearst's daily newspapers to free-thought journals. She became a reformer in her own reform movement, suffragism's independent voice. She died in New York City, 26 October 1902.

Late in life Stanton had summed up the role of the reformer as she understood it. "Let us remember," she wrote in the introduction to her Woman's Bible, "that all reforms are interdependent. . . . Reformers who are always compromising, have not yet grasped the idea that truth is the only safe ground to stand upon. The object of an individual life is not to carry one fragmentary measure in human progress, but to utter the highest truth clearly seen in all directions, and thus to round out and perfect a well balanced character." 18 A lofty and difficult mission, this was also a strikingly individual mission measured by personal integrity, not social effect or acceptance. In its immediate context, the passage rationalized Stanton's controversy with suffragists over her critique of clerical and biblical authority. But it clearly addressed a sense of her vocation. It recalled her admiration for William Lloyd Garrison, and it suggested tension in her own career between realizing the objectives of a reformer and those of a leader. Written when suffragists had stalled in their pursuit of winning the vote state by state and when black men were losing the right in one Southern state after another, Stanton may also have affirmed a belief that those who freed the slaves without regard for universal liberty were in error--that it was they, not she, who had compromised and overlooked the interdependence of reform.


NOTES
1.
Henry B. Stanton to Gerrit Smith, 27 February 1840, Gerrit Smith Papers ( Syracuse University).
2.
"Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, Adopted by the Woman's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, New York, 19-20 July 1848," in Mari Jo Buhle and Paul Buhle , eds., Concise History of Woman Suffrage: Selections from the Classic Work of Stanton, Anthony, Gage, and Harper ( Urbana, Ill., 1978), 94-97.
3.
Dorothy Sterling, ed., Turning the World Upside Down: The Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women, Held in New York City, May 9-12, 1837 ( New York, 1987), 13.
4.
Untitled address, 1848, excerpted in Ellen C. DuBois, ed., Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony: Correspondence, Writings, Speeches, rev. ed. ( Boston, 1993), 32.
5.
Ibid.
6.
Letter to the Editor, New York Semi-Weekly Tribune, 28 November 1854.

-51-

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