Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Address to the NY Legislature, 1854


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Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Address to the NY Legislature, 1854


Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Address to the NY Legislature, 1854,
Read by Jessica Lacher-Feldman:

"The thinking minds of all nations call for change. There is a deep-lying struggle in the whole fabric of society; a boundless, grinding collision of the New with the Old."
The tyrant, Custom, has been summoned before the bar of Common Sense. His Majesty no longer awes the multitude--his sceptre is broken--his crown is trampled in the dust--the sentence of death is pronounced upon him. All nations, ranks and classes have, in turn, questioned and repudiated his authority; and now, that the monster is chained and caged, timid woman, on tiptoe, comes to look him in the face, and to demand of her brave sires and sons, who have struck stout blows for liberty, if, in this change of dynasty, she, too, shall find relief.
Yes, gentlemen, in republican America, in the 19th century, we, the daughters of the revolutionary heroes of '76, demand at your hands the redress of our grievances--a revision of your state constitution--a new code of laws. Permit us then, as briefly as possible, to call your attention to the legal disabilities under which we labor.
1st, Look at the position of woman as woman. It is not enough for us that by your laws we are permitted to live and breathe, to claim the necessaries of life from our legal protectors--to pay the penalty of our crimes; we demand the full recognition of all our rights as citizens of the Empire State. We are persons; native, free-born citizens; property-holders, tax-payers; yet are we denied the exercise of our right to the elective franchise.
2d. Look at the position of woman as wife. Your laws relating to marriage--founded as they are on the old common law of England, a compound of barbarous usages, but partially modified by progressive civilization--are in open violation of our enlightened ideas of justice, and of the holiest feelings of our nature.
The wife who inherits no property holds about the same legal position that does the slave on the southern plantation. She can own nothing, sell nothing. She has no right even to the wages she earns; her person, her time, her services are the property of another.
3d. Look at the position of woman as widow. Behold the magnanimity of the law in allowing the widow to retain a life interest in one-third the landed estate, and one-half the personal property of her husband, and taking the lion's share to itself!
4th. Look at the position of woman as mother. There is no human love so generous, strong and steadfast as that of the mother for her child; yet behold how cruel and ruthless are your laws touching this most sacred relation.
Thus, by your laws, the child is the absolute property of the father, wholly at his disposal in life or at death.
Many times and oft it has been asked us, with unaffected seriousness, "what do you women want? What are you aiming at?" Many have manifested a laudable curiosity to know what the wives and daughters could complain of in republican America, where their sires and sons have so bravely fought for freedom and gloriously secured their independence, trampling all tyranny, bigotry and caste in the dust, and declaring to a waiting world the divine truth that all men are created equal. What can woman want under such a government? Admit a radical difference in sex and you demand different spheres--water for fish, and air for birds.
But if, gentlemen, you take the ground that the sexes are alike, and, therefore, you are our faithful representative--then why all these special laws for woman? Would not one code answer for all of like needs and wants? Christ's golden rule is better than all the special legislation that the ingenuity of man can devise: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." This, men and brethren, is all we ask at your hands. We ask no better laws than those you have made for yourselves. We need no other protection than that which yourself present law secure to you.
In conclusion, then, let us say, in behalf of the women of this state, we ask for all that you have asked for yourselves in the progress of your development, since the May Flower cast anchor side Plymouth rock; and simply on the ground that the rights of every human being are the same and identical."





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“Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Address to the NY Legislature, 1854,” accessed May 20, 2022, https://rocheritage.org/items/show/152.