Declaration of Sentiments, Seneca Falls Conference, 1848

Abolitionists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott convened the first women’s rights convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls, N.Y.  The Declaration of Sentiments was modeled after the U.S. Declaration of Independence and borrowed language from the antislavery movement, demanding that women be given full rights of citizenship. Sixty-eight women and 32 men signed the document.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Grade Level

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...

The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.

He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.

He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men—both natives and foreigners.

Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides.

He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.

He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.

He has made her, morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master—the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement.

He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes of divorce; in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given, as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women—the law, in all cases, going upon a false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his hands.

After depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single, and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it.

He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration.

He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.

He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her.

He allows her in Church, as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.

He has created a false public sentiment, by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated, but deemed of little account in man.

He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and to her God.
He has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.

Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation—in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States.

In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and national [sic] Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions embracing every part of the country.

Planning a lesson or unit on rights? Try grouping this text with An Excerpt from the United States Declaration of Independence.

This text is in the public domain.
Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    What is the “first right of a citizen,” denied to women, according to this declaration?
    The right to vote.
  2. Question
    What language does the “Declaration of Sentiments” borrow from the Declaration of Independence in its first
    paragraph? What key language was changed?
    The first paragraph of the “Declaration of Sentiments” is entirely taken from the Declaration of Independence, with the key exception that where the latter says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal,” the former declares, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.”
  3. Question
    The “Declaration of Sentiments” lists several of the injustices faced by women in mid-19th century United States
    and demands that those rights be awarded to both sexes. Identify one of the rights that women have today but
    did not in 1848. How might society be different today had that right not been made equal?
    Answers will vary but can draw on any of these: the right to vote; the right to own property; domestic rights related to marriage, divorce and guardianship; the right to education; and the right to minister.
  4. Question
    What does denying women the right to vote result in, according to the authors?
    Without the right to vote, women are denied input into the passage of legislation that they are then subject to follow.
  5. Question
    What are the obstacles to gender equality today, in your view?
    The response might speak to equal pay, male supremacy or moral double standards.
Reveal Answers