In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton

By Elisabeth Griffith | Go to book overview

I
Place and Privilege
1815-26

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born into the first family of Johnstown, New York. Located forty miles northwest of Albany, the town of one thousand was the seat of Fulton County. It was an intellectual and industrial center in the early nineteenth century. The Cayadutta River at the north end of the village supplied power for factories making gloves and steel springs. Named for Sir William Johnson, an Englishman who had bought the site from the Indians before the Revolution, the town overlooked the Mohawk Valley. It was splendid in autumn and snowbound in winter. 1

The Cady mansion, at the corner of Main and Market streets, dominated the east end of the town square. In position and proportion it equaled the church, the courthouse, and the jail. The first Cady home on the site, a two-story white frame colonial building, was Stanton's birthplace. That house was later torn down by her father and replaced with a "severely square grey brick mansion." A visitor described it in 1854 as "an elegant great house . . . [full of] beautiful things and tasteful environments." The impressive entry hall featured a divided staircase, and all the rooms were well proportioned and high ceilinged. 2 The house was large enough to accommodate the numerous children, law students, and servants in livery who made up the Cady ménage. At one time the Cadys employed twelve servants, including two black men and a boy, four nurses, a laundress, a cook with a drunken father, and assorted maids. 3

Reigning over this large household was Elizabeth's mother, Margaret Livingston Cady. The Livingston name tied her to the old Dutch aristocracy in New York, although her parents were Canadians and only collaterally connected to their wealthy Hudson Valley relations. At the outbreak

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