It must have been quite a tea party. Jane and Richard Hunt, well-to-do Quakers living in New York just three miles from the small town of Seneca Falls, invited their neighbor, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, to tea on July 13, 1848. The Hunts also invited several other Quaker women: Mary Ann McClintock, wife of a Quaker minister, and Lucretia Mott and her sister Martha Coffin Wright. Discussion at the tea party centered on the "discontent" these women felt over their legal and civil status in America, and they decided to act upon their frustrations by calling for a women's convention to be held in Seneca Falls the following week. The women placed a notice in the newspaper announcing the dates of the convention and the name of the keynote speaker: Lucretia Mott.
What followed, of course, was the now historic Seneca Falls Convention, the first official meeting in America called to discuss the "social, civil, and religious condition of women." The convention, held from July 19 to 20 in the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York, produced the "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions," a document modeled on the Declaration of Independence. The "Declaration of Sentiments" made bold demands for its day: it claimed that American women should be given civil and political rights equal to those of American men, including the right to vote. See how the rhetoric of women's rights evolved from the "Declaration of Sentiments" of 1848 to the suffragist arguments that finally prevailed by visiting the EDSITEment lesson plan, Cultural Change.
Read more about the history of the women's suffrage movement by visiting the American Memory Project: "Votes for Women: National American Women's Suffrage Association, 1848-1921." This collection consists of 167 books, pamphlets and other artifacts documenting the suffrage campaign and includes the full text of the "Declaration of Sentiments." At Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1830-1930, you can research the participation of women in several reform movements, including women's suffrage and the abolition of slavery. Finally, if you are looking for resources for middle and high school students on the study of gender issues in American history, go to the U. S. Women's History Workshop. Here you will find teacher workshops on instructing students about issues of gender and an electronic classroom that addresses how images of women in popular culture help shape attitudes toward gender.
Photograph of a suffragist, courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.