Tuesday’s Brown Bag was titled “The Road to Seneca Falls,” and was the third installment in Judith Wellman’s series of talks on women’s rights history in New York State. Judith is a professor at SUNY Oswego and is the author of The Road to Seneca Falls: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the First Woman’s Rights Convention. She is also the Gretchen Hoadley Burke ’81 Endowed Chair for Regional Studies. Her areas of specialization are U.S History: Nineteenth Century, Social Work, Women’s History, and Underground Railroad History. Judy’s talk was especially interesting because many of the historical sites she discussed are local. For example, the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls where the convention took place is only two hour’s drive from Hamilton. The 1848 convention drew in a crowd of three hundred people to discuss women’s political rights. Over one hundred of those who attended signed the Declaration of Sentiments which asserted “that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inaliable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
It was interesting to hear a brief biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton because it really underscored how much of her life she had dedicated to this movement. It was also interesting to hear that besides the prominent figures of the movement like Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglas, and Stanton, the majority of the signers were just ordinary people willing to make public their belief in equality for all. The three movements that converged and linked these members into the women’s rights movement were Quaker abolitionists, political abolitionists, and legal reformers. All three of these reformer groups championed equality and rights for society’s oppressed so it only seems natural that they would come together at Seneca Falls at the start of the women’s rights movement. Judy also discussed the break in the women’s movement that resulted from the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, which gave African-American men the right to vote. Some members of the movement felt slighted because while they had worked closely with the abolitionist movement, they would not see the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, until the year 1929.A video of the lecture is available on the WMST Facebook page for those who are interested!