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Origins: The 19th Century Woman's Movement

Jordan Kirtley

In 1920, the United States ratified the 19th Amendment recognizing women's voting rights. Over the next year, we will explore, commemorate, and celebrate the history of women's suffrage in the United States and discover what role voting played in the social, political, legal, and economic changes of the 20th and 21st centuries.

This is Hindsight.


For historians, knowing where to start a story, where the real root of a movement begins is difficult to find but is critical to where the narrative goes.

In the 1830s, white women lived under the protections of coverture, a legal doctrine that, upon marriage, covered women from legal and political responsibility in most cases. While this also place responsibilities on the husband for their well being, it meant a much more restricted public life for women, that, by the middle of the 19th century, was beginning to feel stifling.

The women who began or organize for women's rights in the 1830s were responding to legal, political, and economic circumstances. Limited and irregular rights, along with stident conversations on equality and autonomous rights, had all but disappeared.

We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal. - Declaration of Sentiments

In July 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott held in Seneca Falls, New York, "a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman."

This brief description of the "world-shaking" event was sent to the local newspapers advertising the first women's right's convention. The convention lasted two days and took place over six sessions, offering presentations, lectures, and multiple discussions about the role of women in society. The result was the Declaration of Sentiments — a document that would serve as the foundation of women's rights in the United States and fuel a movement that would culminate in the ratification of the 19th Amendment, recognizing women's right to vote.

In this episode, we explore the origins of the 19th century woman's movement.


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