The Convention at Seneca Falls — The Beginning of the Suffrage Movement

The power and the enticement of the right to vote brought over three hundred men and women to the tiny hamlet of Seneca Falls, New York, in the summer of 1848 to attend the first women’s rights convention organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, two abolitionists who had met at the 1840 Anti-Slavery Convention in London. These women realized early that to achieve reform, women needed to win the right to vote. The idea for the convention began when Mott and Stanton, along with Martha Wright and Mary Ann McClintock, were invited to tea at the home of Jane Clothier Hunt, a wealthy philanthropist and abolitionist, in Waterloo, New York. The ladies talked about the need to improve the social standing of women as well as the need for women to have the right to vote.

Spurred on by the motto of a Hunt grandfather, “ Faith without works is dead,” the women decided to move forward with their cause and send an advertisement to the Seneca County Courier inviting all readers to attend a convention planned at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls where the conditions and rights of women would be the topics of discussion. The chapel, after all, had been the scene for many reform lectures over the years.

Wright, McClintock, Hunt, Stanton, and Mott met supporters on July 19, at the Wesleyan Chapel. The first day of the convention was especially for women who gathered to hear Stanton read the Declaration of Sentiments, Grievances, and Resolutions, listing injustices inflicted on women. The document urged all women to organize and petition for their rights.

Nearly forty men attended the second day of the convention on July 20, including Frederick Douglass. The convention passed twelve resolutions that day including the ninth resolution calling for female enfranchisement.

The document listed sixteen abusive laws and practices that violated women’s natural rights such as withholding rights given to natives and foreigners; withholding the right to vote; withholding the right to own property. The declaration emphasized that rules of marriage, divorce, education, religion and even moral laws were all designed to destroy a woman’s confidence in her own powers. Stanton emphasized that these laws were enacted without the consent of the governed since women were denied the franchise. This convention marked the beginning of the women’s suffrage movement.

The Declaration of Sentiments, Grievances, and Resolutions was modeled on the Declaration of Independence. Stanton’s opening paragraph reads, “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man…we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” The document goes on to refuse allegiance to a tyrannical government and to insist on equal status so women can enjoy their natural rights. Both documents were written to help people live in a more just society. The Declaration of Independence was signed by fifty-six men and the Declaration of Sentiments, Grievances, and Resolutions was signed by sixty-eight women and thirty-two men of a total of three-hundred attendees of the convention. Seventy years after the Declaration of Sentiments, Grievances, and Resolutions was adopted, the l9th Amendment was passed by Congress granting women the right to vote.

This article is the second in a series on the Women’s Suffrage Centennial sponsored by Chautauqua-Wawasee, Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum, Syracuse Public Library, Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber and Indiana Humanities. All events are free and open to the public.

Chautauqua-Wawasee is a non-profit organization which provides life enriching programs for the northern Indiana region.

Mary Hursh is a freelance writer who lives on Syracuse Lake with her husband Stanley.

On Aug. 26, 1920, with final ratification of the 19 thAmendment to the U. S. Constitution, Hoosier women won the right to vote.  At first glance, the meaning behind that statement is simple. But the real story goes much deeper.  In Indiana, almost seventy years passed between the first calls for the right of women to vote and the passage of the 19th Amendment. And, though momentous, 1920 is just one milestone in a long and ongoing journey, and access to the voting booth is just one part of what it means to be an equal part of the democratic process.

Starting in 2020, and now extending into 2021, the Women’s Suffrage Centennial is being celebrated throughout Indiana and America. In 1973, August 26 was designated as Women’s Equality Day by Congress. Syracuse has designated the week of August 23-29 as “Women’s Suffrage Centennial Celebration” with Chautauqua-Wawasee putting on a number of events, teaming with the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum, Syracuse Public Library, Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber and Indiana Humanities.

The first program is a presentation by Melissa Gentry titled “From Seneca Falls to Seymour and South Bend: Mapping Indiana’s Suffrage History” which asks the question “What can we learn by mapping Indiana’s women’s suffrage movement and its leaders?” Her program, based on “story maps” reveals that Indiana—and Hoosier suffragists in particular—were ideologically, economically, racially, and socially diverse. Melissa’s multimedia story maps depict some of the people and places connected to the history of women’s suffrage. Melissa Gentry is the Map Collection Supervisor at the Ball State University Libraries’ GIS Research and Map Collection, where she provides instruction programs and curates special exhibits at Ball State University and the Muncie community. This first program will be held at Oakwood Resort Inn on August 26, from 6:30-7:30.

The following Saturday, August 29, will feature two programs, one in the morning, and one mid-day.  The morning will be a Children’s program, led by Margo Wilson from 10:00 to 11:00 at the Syracuse Public Library. Following that, starting at 11:30 an Ice Cream Social is planned for Lakeside Park at the gazebo. The Ice Cream will be provided by Joe’s Ice Cream. The event will also feature suffragists and brief historical presentation by Beth Beams.

The fourth program will be a presentation by Marsha Miller titled “From Amanda to Zerelda: Hoosier Suffragists Who Raised A Ruckus”. This presentation explores the chronological history of women’s suffrage in Indiana through historical costume and a suffragist song, or two! Marsha introduces Hoosier women who helped shape the movement, including Amanda Way (‘mother of Indiana suffrage’), Helen Gougar (feisty publisher and lawyer based in Lafayette), Zerelda Wallace (one of the founders of Indiana’s Equal Suffrage Society), and women who moved into the national suffragist sphere, including May Wright Sewall (educator, and civic organizer), and Ida Husted Harper (journalist; close friend and biographer of Susan B. Anthony). As a librarian, Marsha Miller has taught more than 4,800 information literacy sessions at Indiana State University and coordinates library social media. She works closely with ISU’s Gender Studies Program and is a board member for the League of Women Voters of Vigo County. This presentation will be at the Syracuse Community Center on September 5 from 2:00 to 3:30. She will bring a variety of historical pictures and other items of interest and even books for children.

More details will be provided by a series of historical articles.  And details are available here or  our Facebook site (