In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton

By Elisabeth Griffith | Go to book overview

6
Discontent and Divorce Reform
1856-61

Elizabeth Cady Stanton sacrificed public ambitions to private affections during her last years in Seneca Falls. For a short period in the early 1850s she had successfully combined reform work and domestic duties. From the beginning of her friendship with Anthony until the speech to the New York legislature in 1854, Stanton had slowly increased her involvement with the women's movement. Then, faced with her father's opposition, Henry's resistance, and two more children, Stanton surrendered to the bonds of affection and responsibility that confined her. She chose to stay home, read, write, and mind the children, but she chafed at the delay and resented the restrictions. At the same time, she accepted them and comforted herself with visions of a productive, public period after her children were grown.

Once again Stanton was without a useful role model. No single person was doing what she wanted to do, so she had no one to observe and learn from. Instead she could copy and adopt different specific behaviors from different people. In her public life she had borrowed strategy and rhetoric primarily from the abolitionists. In her private life she had accepted the maternal expectations of mid-nineteenth-centuryAmerica. She was putting family first, but she applied some untraditional approaches to traditional tasks. Angelina Grimké Weld, Lucy Stone, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, and many other reform women retired into maternity at various times in their careers. In anticipating a period of independence to follow child care, Stanton was following a course set by her mother and Mrs. Mott. Margaret Cady had recovered from her grief over dead sons and returned to an active life in the community in her late middle age. Lucretia Mott managed an extended family and a variety of public works with great efficiency and

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