19th at 100: Commemorating the Suffrage Struggle and Its Legacies in Northeast Ohio

Seneca Falls and the 1850 National Women's Rights Convention

When the suffrage movement is taught in schools, the story often is started with the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. At this meeting, both men and women gathered in a church in Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss issues relating to women's suffrage. At the end of the meeting, a document mirroring the Declaration of Independence, called the Declaration of Sentiments, was created. This document listed women's demands for greater rights and equality for their sex. 

This event and the document it created make for a dramatic start to the suffrage movement, and the dramatism of this event would be emphasized by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton 25 years later. However, had you asked a suffragist in the late 19th century to pinpoint where she thought the movement began, she would have more likely answered the 1850 National Women's Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. While the Seneca Falls Convention had occurred two years prior, it was a regional event. The 1850 convention attracted 900 people (three times as many as attended Seneca Falls) from regions across the United States, and such national conventions would continue to be held annually for the duration of the suffrage movement. These national conventions would soon come to Northeast Ohio, with the 1851 convention in Akron being most noted as the location where Sojourner Truth gave her "Ain't I a Woman" speech. 

It could also be argued that the suffragist movement extends back even further than 1848. Many questions about women's suffrage arose from the abolitionist movement, and many suffragists were part of the abolitionist movement as well. Perhaps the start of the movement could be traced back to Abigail Adams asking her husband to "remember the ladies" at the United States Continental Congress. Though Seneca Falls makes for a clean and dramatic start date of the suffrage movement, it was far from the first time the issue women's rights came up in United States history. 

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