In honor of Women’s History Month, we continued with our 2015 Lecture Series by welcoming Denise Reichard, portraying one of the founders of the Women’s Rights Movement, for a special presentation of “Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Remarkable Suffragette”. Stanton was instrumental in the writing of the “Declaration of Sentiments,” at the Seneca Falls Convention in July 1848 as a call to arms for female equality. She, along with Susan B. Anthony, founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) in 1869. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was president of the NWSA from 1869 until 1890.
Born in Johnstown, New York, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was educated at Emma Willard’s Academy and spent her post-academy years engaging in a variety of social activities, primarily at the home of her cousin, the abolitionist Gerrit Smith. There she fell in love with another abolitionist, Henry B. Stanton. Despite her father’s opposition, they married in 1840 and for their honeymoon went to London to attend the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention. There Cady Stanton met Lucretia Mott, the leading American female abolitionist, and began to study the Anglo-American traditions of women’s rights.
In 1847, the Stantons moved to Seneca Falls, New York, where Elizabeth set about to raise their seven children but grew resentful of her domestic confinement. In 1848, with the help of Mott, she organized the world’s first women’s rights convention. Despite Mott’s reluctance, she insisted on including the right to woman suffrage in its resolutions.
“And, strange as it may seem to many, we now demand our right to vote according to the declaration of government under which we live. We have no objection to discuss the question of equality, for we feel that the weight of argument lies wholly with us, but we wish the question of equality kept distinct from the question of rights, for the proof of the one does not determine the truth of the other. All white men in this country have the same rights, however they may differ in mind, body or estate. The right is ours. The question now is, how shall we get possession of what rightfully belongs to us. We should not feel so sorely grieved if no man who had not attained the full stature of Webster, Clay, Van Buren, or Gerrit Smith could claim the right of elective franchise. But to have drunkards, idiots, horse-racing, rum selling rowdies, ignorant foreigners, and silly boys fully recognized, while we ourselves are thrust out from all the rights that belong to citizens, it is too grossly insulting to the dignity of woman to be longer quietly submitted to. The right is ours. Have it we must. Use it we will. The pens, the tongues, the fortunes, the indomitable wills of many women are already pledged to secure this right. The great truth, that no just government can be formed without the consent of the governed, we shall echo and re-echo in the ears of the unjust judge, until by continual coming we shall weary him.”
– Excerpt from Cady Stanton’s address delivered at Seneca Falls, July 19, 1848
In 1851, Cady Stanton met Susan B. Anthony, with whom she formed a lifelong partnership. Three years later, she addressed the New York legislature on a women’s rights bill. In 1860, most of the legal reforms she sought in women’s status, with the notable exception of enfranchisement, were secured. In 1869, Cady Stanton and Anthony established the National Woman Suffrage Association, forerunner of the organization that eventually secured the Nineteenth Amendment.
Cady Stanton’s interests extended far beyond the vote. She had always advocated divorce law liberalization, and in 1860 she precipitated a heated debate among women’s rights advocates by urging women to leave unhappy marriages. In the late 1860s, she began to advocate what she called the ‘right to self-sovereignty’-women should take deliberate measures to avoid becoming pregnant. These beliefs led her in the early 1870s into association with the notorious ‘free lover,’ Victoria Woodhull. Cady Stanton ultimately continued her independent course on behalf of women’s emancipation until her death in 1902.
“We do not expect our path will be strewn with the flowers of popular applause, but over the thorns of bigotry and prejudice will be our way, and on our banners will beat the dark stormclouds of opposition from those who have entrenched themselves behind the stormy bulwarks of custom and authority, and who have fortified their position by every means, holy and unholy. But we will steadfastly abide the result. Unmoved we will bear it aloft. Undaunted we will unfurl it to the gale, for we know that the storm cannot rend from it a shred, that the electric flash will but more clearly show to us the glorious words inscribed upon it, ‘Equality of Rights.'”
-Excerpt from Cady Stanton’s address delivered at Seneca Falls, July 19, 1848
Denise Reichard, a public speaker and performer who recreates the lives of great women of history, researches and gathers all of the information she uses about each historical portrayal and writes a story that reflects the unique life. Each tale reveals many historical accounts using vivid details and authentic material. All this takes shape in a 35 minute performance presented in characterization and costume. She then breaks from character for the remainder of the presentation to take questions from her audience and to facilitate a discussion regarding the character she is portraying and the topics she touches on.
She has been engaged in this line of work since the 1980’s. She has delighted audiences all over western New York, in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio and the province of Ontario, Canada. Her background includes degrees in speech, education and communication; specifically, a Bachelor’s Degree from Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio and a Master’s Degree from The University of Pittsburgh. In addition to her work as a public speaker, she teaches speech communication courses on a part-time basis at Niagara County Community College.