I’m a couple days late on this one, but since the event I’d like to point out happened in 1848–161 years ago–I figure two days isn’t a big deal.
July 20 marked the anniversary of the signing of The Declaration of Sentiments, the document that resulted from the Seneca Falls Convention on Women’s Rights, and which “officially” launched the suffrage movement in the United States. That gathering, which brought together Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Margaret Fuller, and an entire roomfull of our foremothers, might also be considered the beginning of the feminist movement here.
The documents do seem a little dated, and are clearly the products of a group of well-to-do white women, there’s still a whole lot of goodness in them. I suggest that you click through the link at the bottom of the page and read the documents in their entirety (they’re not long), but I must excerpt a few choice quotes. From the Declaration of Sentiment (how Victorian!):
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; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience has shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they were accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.
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.
And from the Declaration of Resolutions:
Resolved, That such laws as conflict, in any way, with the true and substantial happiness of woman, are contrary to the great precept of nature and of no validity, for this is “superior in obligation to any other.”
Resolved, that all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in society as her conscience shall dictate, or which place her in a position inferior to that of man, are contrary to the great precept of nature and therefore of no force or authority.
Resolved, that the women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor their ignorance, by asserting that they have all the rights they want.
Sweet. You can read the entire text of the Declaration of Sentiments, and its accompanying Declaration of Rights at the US Constitution site (which I think is pretty nifty in its own right, but then again I carry a copy of the Bill of Rights in my wallet). Happy Anniversary, everyone.