Untangling the Biblical Knot
Reconsidering Elizabeth Cady Stanton and
The Woman's Bible
A t the 1878 Woman's Suffrage Convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton -- the elder stateswoman of the feminist movement -- introduced a resolution endorsing women's self-development and condemning their self-sacrifice. When Frederick Douglass, one of the reigning spokesmen for abolitionism and then for civil rights, attempted to speak in favor of self-sacrifice, Lucy Coleman retorted, "Well, Mr. Douglass, all you say may be true; but allow me to ask you why you did not remain a slave in Maryland, and sacrifice yourself like a Christian for your Master, instead of running off to Canada to secure your liberty" (qtd. in Welter, "Introduction,"xxiii). Coleman's sentiment paralleled that of her friend and activist ally, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In an 1888 article for the North American Review, Stanton wrote: "A consideration of woman's position before Christianity, under Christianity, and at the present time shows that she is not indebted to any form of religion for one step of progress, nor one new liberty; on the contrary, it has been through the perversion of her religious sentiments that she has been so long held in a condition of slavery" ("Has").
Stanton's (and her friend Coleman's) renunciation of Christianity's call for self-sacrifice was a sentiment not honored by the majority of late-nineteenth- century feminists ( Gifford, "Politicizing,"54). As is evident in the individuals