“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” (qtd. in Burns) .
These words were just part of the intriguing and inspirational speech given by
Elizabeth Cady Stanton at the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls,
New York, in 1848. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was driven by determination and the
revolutionary belief that it was time for women to be considered equals, in a society
that was dominated by men. She believed in women’s independence and spent her
life fighting for her beliefs. Her struggle for women’s rights is depicted in the incredible
documentary Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story Of
Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony. The film,
produced in 1999, by Ken Burns and Paul Barnes, gives its
viewers a fascinating and educational insight into the life
of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and her struggle to balance political and family life, as
well as her remarkable friendship with Susan Brownell Anthony.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, born in 1815, was an amazing woman, who from a
young age wanted to break boundaries. She was well-educated and was fascinated
by learning and revolutionary ideas. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a pioneer in the
women’s suffrage movement. Her courage and controversial ideas eventually led to
a great change for American women. When talking about Elizabeth, one cannot
forget to mention Susan B. Anthony, born in 1820. Their partnership was the force
for the movement, a remarkable friendship that would last more than 50 years.
Their two very different lifestyles complimented each other. Anthony provided
“legs” for Stanton, while Stanton supplied the words for Anthony.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, unlike Anthony, was a wife and a mother of seven.
Stanton was married to Henry Stanton, a lawyer and an anti-slavery activist. After
marrying Henry, Elizabeth demonstrated her independence in keeping her name, as
well as requiring that the word “obey” be dropped from the wedding ceremony. She
was a good wife and a loving mother. She was against spanking her seven children
and allowed them much freedom. Elizabeth Cady Stanton had her hands full with
the family, since Henry was often away. She frequently was occupied with her
motherly duties, but with Anthony’s help, she continued the fight she began in 1848
at the first women’s rights convention.
Elizabeth’s speech at the Convention made her famous and began the
movement. Mrs. Stanton showed her courage by talking about men depriving
women of their rights, including equality in education and the professions, the
right to a divorce, and custody of children. She used the United States Declaration
of Independence as a model for her Declaration of Sentiments in which she stated
“that all men and women are created equal” (qtd. in Burns) . However, it was her
suggestion that women should be granted the right to vote that showed her boldness
and her revolutionary views. Many thought that the idea was outrageous, but Stanton
would not back down. She was determined to make the suggestion for women’s
right to vote part of the suffrage’s resolutionand with the support of many, her idea
was passed. Her controversial ideas sparked a fight that lasted 72 years.
The film Not For Ourselves Alone , gives its viewers an amazing insight into the
political and family life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. According to Bob Herbert of The
New York Times, “The documentary is a compelling piece of work. Stanton and
Anthony were powerful, complex, controversial and often difficult individuals”
(Herbert 11) . In addition, the documentary does not fail to show its viewers the
world that Mrs. Stanton lived in. It was a world of male dominance, where women
were nothing more than men’s property. Speaking in public by women was thought
to be indecent, and a college education was only for men. The whole suffrage
movement was thought to be un-lady like and was viciously attacked by the press.
By drawing this image, the viewers get a greater sense of how bold and inspirational
Elizabeth Cady Stanton really was. She was determined to get women the rights they
deserved, and she spent her life devoted to the fight.
Elizabeth was the perfect model of a mother and a woman with a career. She
juggled the roles of a mother and of a woman’s suffrage activist. Elizabeth was the
soul of the movement, spending her time with her family. It was the bond of sisterhood
that she had with Susan B. Anthony that kept her going, allowing her to be the fighter
behind the scene. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote many articles and speeches, continuing
to be a part of the great cause. She had many radical views, including on the issue of
divorce. She was an incredible woman who was not afraid to share her opinions, even
though her ideas were not popular ones in American society or the world at that time.
The documentary shows how important Elizabeth Cady Stanton was to the
women’s rights movement. She strongly believed in women’s equality and was
frustrated when other women resisted her struggle. This was the case when she
demanded equal wages for women and it was the women who opposed her. She
explained, “What an infernal set of fools these school marms must be. Well, if in
order to please men they wish to live on air, let them. The sooner the present
generation of women dies out, the better. We have jackasses enough in the world
now without such women propagating any more” (qtd. in Burns) . As we see in this
comment, Elizabeth was not afraid to speak her mind. She had great hopes for the
generations of women to come. She knew that the struggle to get women the right to
vote would require many years and a lot of effort. Elizabeth Cady Stanton fought the
longest for the cause, however, but didn’t live long enough to cast a ballot herself.
Elizabeth is also portrayed in art. The portrait of her holding her
Harriet, demonstrates her maternal side. She has a genuine
smile on her face, showing her enjoyment in being a mother.
The way Elizabeth is holding her baby illustrates what a loving
and good mother she was. The child also looks very neat,
showing that Elizabeth took good care of her children. Also,
the fact that she took a picture with her infant daughter
demonstrates that she was proud to be a mother, a mother of
a female. We learned from the documentary that during a time where childbirth was not a
topic for conversation, Elizabeth would hang a flag each time she gave birth to a child.
This again presents her drastic ideas and her boldness in expressing them.
However, Elizabeth was not only a mother to her children, but also a mother to
the suffrage movement. The picture of her at the Women’s Right’s Convention of 1848
depicts the other side of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In this drawing,
she is portrayed as a strong, independent woman. She is standing
in front of a crowd tall and proud, showing her strength and
boldness. It also presents her as a leader. The attitude of the
people around her indicates that she is well-known and respected.
She is holding a paper in her hands, and she seems to be reading.
There is also a thick book on the podium showing that she is well
read and educated. Elizabeth is clearly everything she should not be as a woman in a
male-dominated society. She is well-educated, outspoken and opinionated.
Elizabeth truly was a controversial woman with radical ideas. However,
her friendship with Susan B. Anthony that was the true force
for the movement. Their partnership is also depicted in many
photographs. In the picture of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and
Susan B. Anthony sitting together at a small table, one notices
they are both elderly. The photograph, taken in 1881,
indicates they have known each other for thirty years. This
shows how long their friendship has lasted. Their remarkable
partnership was timeless. There is a book on the table, reflecting Elizabeth’s constant need
for knowledge. In the photograph, despite her age, Elizabeth Cady Stanton looks strong
Another caricature that gives insight into the life of this great woman is a drawing
of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, George Washington and Susan B. Anthony. This piece is
actually mocking Stanton. The cartoon portrays them
floating on the clouds for the 28th Annual Convention
of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
This drawing was a way to minimize the importance of
Elizabeth by setting up a comparison with George
Washington’s accomplishments. Such comparison
would have seemed ludicrous to most nineteenth century readers. The cartoon makes
fun of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the whole suffrage movement, illustrating what
Elizabeth had to deal with during her struggle. Elizabeth in the drawing is also holding
The Woman’s Bible , another idea she was mocked for. However, it is Elizabeth Cady
Stanton who gets the last laugh. Not For Ourselves Alone shows the viewers that
Elizabeth Cady Stanton is far from being a joke. She is the foremother of the struggle
for women’s equality, whose determination and courage led to many triumphs, including
the 19th Amendment.
The Woman’s Bible , which Elizabeth is holding on the cartoon, is an incredible
work of literature. Once again readers are exposed to the extraordinary ideas of
Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Looking at the first paragraph, one already sees it is going to be
far from boring:
Here is the sacred historian’s first account of the advent of
woman; a simultaneous creation of both sexes, in the image
of God. It is evident from the language that there was
consultation in the Godhead, and that the masculine and
feminine elements were equally represented. Scott in his
commentaries says, ‘this consultation of the Gods is the origin
of the doctrine of the trinity.’ But instead of three male
personages, as generally represented, a Heavenly Father, Mother,
and Son would seem more rational. (Stanton 14)
The Woman’s Bible is another example of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s
determination to make a difference. It also shows her courage in expressing her views in
a society where her beliefs were far from popular. She was not afraid to cause
controversy or question religion. In the quotation, Elizabeth examines the idea and
brings awareness that the Bible teaches equality for women. Elizabeth believed
indisputably that women were equal to men, and if this meant questioning the Bible to
make her point, than that is exactly what she did. In the book she questions the
teachings about women having to obey and be materially dependent upon men, as well as
the idea of a woman bringing sin and death into the world. The book is very entertaining
and easy to read.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an amazing woman, full of strength and personal
charisma. She was devoted to her children, as well as to the women’s rights movement.
Her controversial ideas and radical views brought her fame. However, her beliefs were
unpopular in the male-dominated society of her time. Elizabeth Cady Stanton is a hero
to every woman. She was well educated, independent and courageous. Her determination
and remarkable partnership with Susan B. Anthony led to many triumphs in the women’s
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a complex individual, who believed in women’s
independence and equality. Her incredible life is depicted in the documentary, Not For
Ourselves Alone. The film provides its viewers with an intriguing and educational
insight into the world of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her life struggle for women’s rights.
I greatly enjoyed the film. I truly believe that there should be an Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Day, since she was the pioneer in one of the largest social movements of our time.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a captivating, intelligent individual, who was never
afraid to share her controversial ideas. She made that quite clear with her suggestion of
getting women the right to vote, with her divorce views and with her religious theories in
The Woman’s Bible . Elizabeth Cady Stanton is also portrayed in drawings and
photographs as always strong, courageous, and unbreakable. There were some that chose
to mock her, yet she gets the last laugh. She truly is a mother to all women, and an
inspirational role model to me.
Source For Background and Animation:
Animation. Bugs. 3 April 2002.
Background. Tile 17.
16 March 2002.