Today here in America, Women choose who they want to marry. It isn’t that way around the world and it didn’t used to be like that here. Arranged marriages were predominate. Marriage was a way to add to your social standing, increase your families’ finances and move on up the social ladder. In the world today, this is still done frequently. Only now a days, girls are sold to men three times their age. They are often ten years old to fifteen years old.
A woman named Lucy Stone labored all of her life for women’s rights. She was born in 1818 and she died in 1893. In 1846, she was a student at Oberlin College. Oberlin College is about a twenty minute drive from my house. Oberlin is a quaint little college town. Lucy wrote to her mother about her plans to hit the lecture circuit when she graduated. She wrote, “I expect to plead not for the slave only, but for suffering humanity everywhere. Especially do I mean to labor for the elevation of my sex.” For ten years she did that traveling in New England and Ohio and farther giving lectures. She spoke under the auspices of the Anti-Slavery Societies, but she did admit, “I was so possessed by the women’s rights idea that I scattered it in every speech.” The abolitionists became upset that she co-mingled both causes in her speeches.
In 1858, Lucy Stone allowed her household goods to be sold for non-payment of taxes in protest against taxation without representation. Lucy was seeing a man named Henry Blackwell who was a persistent suitor. She really didn’t want to marry. Henry promised her total equality. They were married in 1855 in Massachusetts and had the following protest read and signed as part of the wedding ceremony.
“While acknowledging our mutual affection by publically assuming the relationship of husband and wife, yet in justice to ourselves and a great principle, we deem it a duty to declare that this act on our part implies no sanction of, not promise of voluntary obedience to such of the present laws of marriage, as refuse to recognize the wife as an independent, rational being, while they confer upon the husband an injurious and unnatural superiority, investing him with legal powers which no honorable man would exercize, and which no man should possess. We protest especially against the laws which give to the husband:
1. The custody of the wife’s person.
2. The exclusive control and guardianship of their children.
3. The sole ownership of her personal, and use of her real estate, unless previously settled upon her, or placed in the hands of trustees, as in the case of minors, lunatics, and idiots.
4. The absolute right to the product of her industry.
5. also against laws which give to the widower so much larger and more permanent an interest in the property of his deceased wife, then they give to the widow in that of the deceased husband.
6. Finally, against the whole system by which “the legal existence of the wife is suspended during marriage, “so that in most States, she neither has a legal part in the choice of her residence, nor can she make a will, nor sue or be sued in her own name, nor inherit property.” We believe that personal independence and equal human rights can never be forfeited, except for crime; that marriage should be an equal and permanent partnership, and so recognized by law; that until it is so recognized, married partners should provide against the radical injustice of present laws, by every means in their power. We believe that where domestic difficulties arise, no appeal should be made to legal tribunals under existing laws, but that all difficulties should be submitted to the equitable adjustment of arbitrators mutually chosen. Thus reverencing law, we enter our protest against rules and customs which are unworthy of the name, since they violate justice, the essence of law.”
Lucretia Mott had been a preacher for years; her right to do so is not questioned among Friends (Quakers). But when Antoinette Brown felt that she was commanded to preach, and to arrest the progress of thousands that were on the road to hell; why, when she applied for ordination they acted as though they had rather the whole world should go to hell, than that Antoinette Brown should be allowed to tell them how to keep out of it.
After the defeat of the 1854 women’s property measure, it was six years before another opportunity for an all-out effort in the New York State Legislature presented itself. Susan B. Anthony, who was forever goading the harried and somewhat self-indulgent Elizabeth Cady Stanton to greater efforts, told her that the salvation of women of the Empire State depended upon her power to move “the hearts of our law-makers at this time.” Anthony, moreover, came to stay in Stanton’s house to work along with her on this crucial speech and to pitch in with household tasks.
The joint efforts of Anthony and Stanton on the speech and on dozens of other writings are best described by Stanton herself: “In thought and sympathy we were one, and in the division of labor we exactly complimented each other. I am the better writer, she the better critic. She supplied the facts and statistics, I the philosophy and rhetoric, and, together we have made arguments that stood unshaken through the storms of long years; arguments that on one has answered. Our speeches may be considered the united product of our two brains.” Speaking on the very eve of the Civil War, Elizabeth Cady Stanton asserted that “The prejudice against color…is no stronger than that against sex.” Stanton was married with many children and Anthony chose to remain single so she could give all of her time to the women’s movement. They are two of the reasons that the nineteenth amendment was written and passed. The nineteenth amendment gave women the right to vote.