In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton

By Elisabeth Griffith | Go to book overview

3
Marriage and Mrs. Mott
1840-47

Elizabeth Cady and Henry Stanton announced their engagement in October 1839, having known one another less than a month. To their surprise, the occasion was "not one of unmixed joy and satisfaction." Family and friends raised immediate objections. Gerrit Smith solemnly warned them that her father would never consent. According to her recollection, Smith suggested that Elizabeth announce her plans to Judge Cady by letter, so that she "might draw the hottest fire while still in safe harbor." Then he cautioned against marrying "without due consideration." 1 It was a measure of the reactions of their friends that even their chief ally had reservations about their decision.

To postpone the pending confrontation with her father, Elizabeth stayed on at Peterboro even after Henry had left to speak in Cleveland. When she did go home, she had to answer her father's objections alone. Henry joined her three weeks later, but he was not warmly received. Judge Cady opposed the union on political and financial grounds. Like other social conservatives, he had "a strong aversion to abolitionists and the whole anti‐ slavery movement," according to his daughter. He abhorred the idea of Elizabeth's marrying an antislavery agent. He distrusted a man who had defied traditional political loyalties and espoused radical social change. Judge Cady was also concerned about Henry's financial prospects. He lectured Elizabeth "on domestic relations from a financial viewpoint." As someone who had married above his social and economic station, opposing his daughter's engagement put Cady in an awkward position. He had also previously argued in favor of daughters being allowed to make their own marital choices. 2

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