In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton

By Elisabeth Griffith | Go to book overview

II
Self Sovereign
1889-1902

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a defiant old lady. The beginning of the 1890s coincided with the onset of Stanton's old age. One could date her maturity from her sixty-fifth birthday or her retirement from the lyceum in 1880; from the marriage of her youngest child, in this case Harriot, in 1882; or from her widowhood in 1887. During the i88os and 1890s Stanton had to contend with the symptoms of aging: physical ailments, retirement, financial insecurity, death of friends, family estrangement, and generational conflict. 1 But these factors did not define or dominate her old age. Soon to be immobilized by obesity and blindness, she was restrained only by physical infirmity. She had survived her husband, outlived most of her enemies, and exhausted her allies. Her mind remained alert, her mood optimistic, and her manner combative.

In a period of anticipated and actual dependence for most older people, Stanton became increasingly independent. Personally, she had established the kind of "associative household" she had long advocated and enjoyed her "matriarchy." Professionally, she supported herself by writing, completing her autobiography and The Woman's Bible in addition to numerous speeches, articles, and newspaper columns. Politically, she remained aloof from the merger of the rival factions in the suffrage movement, finally breaking with the younger leaders over their timid tactics. Philosophically, she synthesized her feminist ideology in " The Solitude of Self" speech and culminated her attack on patriarchal institutions by condemning traditional Biblical scholarship. Psychologically, she shed the last vestiges of dependence. She moved beyond her last confidante, Susan B. Anthony, and came to rely wholly on her own judgment and values.

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