"SHE WAS ONLY ELEVEN"
“Elizabeth Cady Stanton of
Johnstown, New York”
The Keynote Address
Diane W. Boerner
President of the Johnstown Historical Society
The Dedication of the Plaque to
Mrs. Stanton in the City Park
October 21, 1989
This triumphant message is recorded on the pages that follow. It serves to bring to others the prime purposes of our bicentennial program during the 200th Anniversary of the United States Constitution.
New York State
The Johnstown Bicentennial Committee
Johnstown, New York is the birthplace of equal rights for women because it is the birthplace of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Born into the affluent family of Judge Daniel Cady and his wife, Margaret Livingston Cady, on November 12, 1815, Elizabeth Cady enjoyed a privileged childhood. She was a cheerful, energetic girl who loved books, sports and people and had a passion for games which she never outgrew.
But, at the tender age of eleven, the first feelings of inequality were aroused within her...by the father she so dearly loved. Her only brother had come home from Union College to die. Judge Cady was inconsolable with grief. As he kept an uninterrupted vigil by his son’s casket, young Elizabeth climbed upon his knee, hoping her presence would somehow ease his pain.
At length, he heaved a deep sigh and said, “Oh, my daughter, I wish you were a boy!” Grief stricken and vulnerable, wanting only to comfort him and needing his attention and affection, she felt the string of his rejection.
She later wrote, “Then and there I resolved to study and strive to be at the head of all my classes and thus delight my father’s heart. I thought that the chief thing to be done in order to equal boys was to be learned and courageous. So I decided to study Greek and learn to manage a horse. My resolutions, unlike many such made at night, did not vanish with the coming light. They were resolutions never to be forgotten - destined to mold my character anew.”
The spark was ignited! From that day, Elizabeth Cady pursued a lifelong quest to make men accept women as their equals.
In her father’s law office, the tears and disappointment of the women who came for legal advice touched her heart and made her aware of the injustice and cruelty of the laws. In her child’s mind she devised a plan to do away with the offensive laws - she would simply take scissors and cut them out of her father’s law books! Discovering her scheme, Judge Cady explained that the laws did not exist only in his books and that even if his whole library were to burn to the ground, women’s conditions would remain unchanged.
He described the law making process to her and said, “When you are grown up and able to make a speech, you must go down to Albany and talk to the legislators.” “Thus,” she reflected in later years, “was the future object of my life foreshadowed and my duty plainly outlined.”
Elizabeth Cady was driven to excel in any activity that was considered masculine. She was the only girl in her classes of Latin, Greek and mathematics at the Johnstown Academy, where she was indeed the top of her class, and she was humiliated and outraged beyond words when she was barred from joining her fellow classmates at Union College, because she was a girl.
As Elizabeth Cady matured, she rebelled against all restrictions on women’s activities that confronted her at every turn.
She was a pretty, diminutive spitfire! She possessed remarkable self-confidence and took controversial stands without hesitation. Her personality was magnetic and although many disliked what she said, most were captivated by her extraordinary intelligence, wit and persuasive charm.
In 1839 Elizabeth Cady met and fell in love with a handsome, celebrated abolitionist name Henry B. Stanton. They were married here in Johnstown on May 1, 1840, and characteristic of her independent nature, she retained her maiden name and was known thereafter as Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Undaunted by the responsibilities of being a wife and eventually mother of seven, she forged ahead with her fight for equality. In 1848, she organized the first Woman’s Rights convention and for the very first time ever, publicly demanded that women be allowed to vote.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s feminism was not limited to suffrage, however. She also advocated co-education, girls’ sports, job training, equal wages, labor unions, birth control, property rights for women, child custody rights for mothers and reform of divorce laws. She frequently compared the position of women to that of slaves and she worked diligently to abolish both forms of bondage.
In 1851, Elizabeth Cady Stanton met Susan B. Anthony and they became fast friends. Inspired by Elizabeth, Susan joined the crusade. They made a dynamic duo and their partnership and friendship endured for more than fifty years.
Through those years Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote thousands of speeches and crisscrossed the nation speaking anywhere people would listen. She wrote hundreds of newspaper articles, presided over numerous woman’s rights conventions, edited a woman’s magazine...sacrificed much of her family life and was subjected to ridicule for not accepting her station in life as a nonentity.
In 1888, one of her dreams was realized as she welcomed delegates from eight countries and three continents to the First International Council of Women in Washington, D.C. She delivered a spellbinding speech and received a standing ovation.
“Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the best known and most conspicuous advocate of woman’s rights in the 19th century.” stated Biographer, Elisabeth Griffith. “For almost fifty years she lead the first woman’s movement in America. She set its agenda, drafted its document and articulated its ideology. Her followers grew from a scattered network of local reform groups into a national constituency of politically active women."
Her statements and actions were reported in the national press. On November 12, 1895, 6,000 people gathered to celebrate her 80th birthday at the Metropolitan Opera House and her death in 1902 made international headlines where she was designated “America’s Grand Old Woman”.
“If the intellect of Elizabeth Cady Stanton had been possessed by a man,” stated journalist Ida Husted Harper, “he would have had a seat on the Supreme Bench or in the Senate of the the United States, but our country has no rewards for its great women.”
As a 20th century woman who has never felt anything but equal with men, I would like to thank you, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and tell you that your rewards are many... they are the millions of women who vote, who won property, who go to college, who are awarded custody of their children, who are paid the same wage as the man they work next to and who just go through life never feeling discriminated against because of their sex.
You devoted your life to our cause. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the women of the
world are forever in your debt and your hometown will never forget you.
Donald F. Murphy
Chief Executive Officer
Noel S. Levee
Catharine J. Levee
Katherine M. Joyce
Pauline P. Wayne
Barbara S. Thompson
Susan A. Bentley
Charles J. Noxon
The above was generously typed by Laura Stewart. Laura has transcribed quite a few of Fulton's pages and has a deep interest of the history and area of Johnstown. She is searching for information on NOLAN families, who worked and resided in Johnstown. Their main occupations were as masons and construction workers; in fact, they built several of the brick houses in Johnstown.
Copyright ©2000 Laura Stewart, Jeanette Shiel
All Rights Reserved.
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