The Stanton Men and Woman Suffrage

Henry Stanton loved his wife, but adding her 1848 woman suffrage agenda to his anti-slavery work would have doomed his efforts for a political solution to slavery.  He never publicly supported woman suffrage.  He praised his wife, however, for the "distinguished service" she "rendered the slave" in the years before and during the Civil War (Random Recollections 68).

Robert L. Stanton must have been unconverted to his sister-in-law's cause of women's rights because his son, Bob, whose admiration for his father was boundless, was also unconverted.  As a boy in 1853, visiting his aunt in Seneca Falls, he doubted the wisdom of her permissive parenting.  As a youth in 1863, visiting her home in New York City not long after the deadly Draft Riots, he did not doubt her courage in showing solidarity with the threatened black population there.  Later in life, he was happy to celebrate his famous aunt's eightieth birthday in New York City in 1895. Bob helped carry her black satin train, "that did honor to a queen," as she entered the Savoy Hotel for a reception the next day.  He recalled his relation to his aunt this way:   

In many ways and things I had a great admiration for the great suffrage leader, and loved her for many of her good and homely qualities as a woman. I was more or less intimately associated with her from the time we first met [1853] until shortly before her death [1902] --at times spending weeks together at her house.  In her latter years, we became very warm friends, not withstanding the fact that we seldom ever agreed on any subject, especially women's suffrage ("Reminiscences").

Elizabeth Cady Stanton with her daughter Harriot Stanton Blatch and granddaughter Nora Blatch.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton with her daughter Harriot Stanton Blatch and granddaughter Nora Blatch.  Three generations of leaders for women's rights.  Image courtesy of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust. 

Though Bob had great affection for his aunt, he was, like many men and women of the nineteenth century, unable to share her vision.   A hundred years ahead of her time, Elizabeth Cady Stanton clearly saw that roles for women were culturally constructed.  She also saw that culture could change through enlightened social consciousness.  She never stopped working toward achieving equal rights for women through positive cultural and social change. She never stopped believing that through education and opportunity, men and women of all races could be free and equal.  In her last year, at her last address, Elizabeth used a favorite motto of her colleague Matilda Joslyn Gage to inscribe a copy of her autobiography, Eighty Years and More (1898), for another colleague, the first woman to graduate from a theological seminary in the United States:

Rev. Olympia Brown with the compliments of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 250 West 94th St., New York Jan. 28-1902. ‘There is a word sweeter than Mother, Home, or Heaven: that word is Liberty.’  

Marble Portrait of Stanton, Anthony, and Mott in the Rotunda of the US Capital
Marble portrait of Stanton, Anthony and Mott in the Rotunda of the US Capital with statue of Lincoln in background.  Image courtesy of Samuel Saldivar.