the foundational documents of our nation were drafted, Abigail Adams
repeatedly reminded her husband, John Adams, the second U.S. President,
that he and the other men drafting these documents should "Remember the
Ladies." Unfortunately, it would be many years before the ladies were
"remembered" and guaranteed equal rights in the United States.
Beginning in the early 1800s,
there were many advocates of equal rights for men and women. The first
women's rights convention in the United States was held July 19-20,
1848, in Seneca Falls, New York. This gathering marked the formal
beginning of the women's rights movement. At the time of the convention,
women were not allowed the freedoms assigned to men in the eyes of the
law, the church, or the government. Women did not vote, hold elective
office, attend college, or earn a living. If married, they could not
make legal contracts, divorce an abusive husband, or gain custody of
Five women organized the First Women's Rights Convention -
Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, Mary Ann M'Clintock, and Jane Hunt.
At the convention, these women presented a Declaration of Sentiments,
based on the language and content of the Declaration of Independence.
Stating that "all men and women are created equal," they demanded equal
rights for women, including - a radical idea - the right to vote. An
estimated 300 people attended the Convention; the document was ratified
and was signed by 68 women and 32 men.
Two weeks later, a Woman's Rights Convention was held in Rochester, New
York on August 2nd. It was followed by state and local conventions in
Pennsylvania, and New York. The first National Woman's Rights
Convention was held in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1850. The women's
right movement grew into a cohesive network of individuals who were
committed to changing society.
disrupted suffrage activity as women turned their energies to "war work."
But, when the war ended, political activism resumed. In 1866
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
B. Anthony formed the American Equal Rights Association, an
organization for white and black women and men dedicated to the goal of
In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, which extended to all
citizens the protections of the Constitution against unjust state laws.
However, this Amendment also defined "citizens" and "voters" as "male." The
ladies remained unremembered.