Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women's Rights Movement

Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women's Rights Movement

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by Sally McMillen
     
 

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In a quiet town of Seneca Falls, New York, over the course of two days in July, 1848, a small group of women and men, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, held a convention that would launch the woman's rights movement and change the course of history. The implications of that remarkable convention would be felt around the world and indeed are still

Overview

In a quiet town of Seneca Falls, New York, over the course of two days in July, 1848, a small group of women and men, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, held a convention that would launch the woman's rights movement and change the course of history. The implications of that remarkable convention would be felt around the world and indeed are still being felt today.

In Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Woman's Rights Movement, the latest contribution to Oxford's acclaimed Pivotal Moments in American History series, Sally McMillen unpacks, for the first time, the full significance of that revolutionary convention and the enormous changes it produced. The book covers 50 years of women's activism, from 1840-1890, focusing on four extraordinary figures—Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony. McMillen tells the stories of their lives, how they came to take up the cause of women's rights, the astonishing advances they made during their lifetimes, and the lasting and transformative effects of the work they did. At the convention they asserted full equality with men, argued for greater legal rights, greater professional and education opportunities, and the right to vote—ideas considered wildly radical at the time. Indeed, looking back at the convention two years later, Anthony called it "the grandest and greatest reform of all time—and destined to be thus regarded by the future historian." In this lively and warmly written study, Sally McMillen may well be the future historian Anthony was hoping to find.

A vibrant portrait of a major turning point in American women's history, and in human history, this book is essential reading for anyone wishing to fully understand the origins of the woman's rights movement.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"McMillen tells the story of the woman's rights movement quite well, and her book adds to our understanding of the woman's rights movement."—Sherry H. Penney, The Journal of American History

"McMillen...presents a fine history of the 1848 Seneca Falls convention...a well-written and cogent synthesis accessible to the general reader while remaining firmly grounded in primary sources."—Publishers Weekly

"McMillen clearly articulates 50 years of critical women's political activism.... If for no other reason, that discussion of the relationship between race and gender struggles makes this work particularly timely in the 2008 election season."—Bust

"Sally McMillen weaves together compelling biographies of colorful leaders with an engaging analysis of the broader reform movements that transformed the texture and trajectory of American society. It is an extraordinary story of ideals and energies that continue to shape American life. In short, McMillen offers a learned and lucid overview of a movement that still moves us."—David Emory Shi, President of Furman University; author of Facing Facts: Realism in American Thought and Culture, 1850-1900

"Tracing the developments that led up to and away from the Woman's Rights Convention of 1848, the volume makes a major contribution to women's history and to American history."—Nancy A. Hewitt, Rutgers University

"This book provides a compulsively readable history of nineteenth-century American feminism—its origins, struggles, achievements, and legacies. I know of no more insightful account of the birth and evolution of the movement to overcome gender inequality."—Steven Mintz, John and Rebecca Moores Professor of History, University of Houston

"Sally McMillen offers the most complete discussion yet of the origins and the impact of this event that started the American women's movement and would change the world."—Marjorie Julian Spruill, Professor of History, The University of South Carolina; author of ew Women of the New South

"McMillen deftly demonstrates how ordinary women transformed their lives and America's future by rejecting the pedestal to join the rough and tumble of nineteenth century reform politics. Her achievement is to make this transformation accessible yet complex, commonplace yet extraordinary."—Catherine Clinton, Queen's University-Belfast

Publishers Weekly

McMillen, who chairs the history department at Davidson College, presents a fine history of the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, which galvanized the women's movement through the remainder of the 19th century and also affected concurrent struggles for temperance, abolition and educational reform. Narrowing her focus to four suffragists-Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone-McMillen nimbly weaves their stories with the larger narrative of reform. After a splendid introductory chapter that outlines the legal injustices most women suffered (typically, they could not vote, hold property or receive equal pay for their work), McMillen describes the convention itself, about which we know relatively little (Stanton gave it just two sentences in her mammoth memoir) and then traces its unexpectedly weighty impact on reformers through the decades. She does an outstanding job of discussing how religion functioned as both an impetus and an obstacle to reform, and pays particular attention to how the women's movement broke apart during Reconstruction because of internal bickering, racism and class divisions. This is not a revisionist work or a substantial challenge to the conventional historiography of suffrage, but a well-written and cogent synthesis accessible to the general reader while remaining firmly grounded in primary sources. 20 b&w illus. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

This book joins a plethora of similar titles that include Eleanor Flexner's 1959 classic Century of Struggleand notable recent works such as Judith Wellman's The Road to Seneca Fallsand Lori Ginzberg's Untidy Origins. While it covers familiar ground, it reflects current scholarship and provides a balanced assessment of the early woman's rights movement and its leaders. McMillen (history, Davidson Coll.) describes the birth of the movement at the 1848 Seneca Falls, NY, convention, its growth over the next decade, and the post-Civil War dissention that split the movement into two competing national organizations, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman's Suffrage Association (AWSA). She highlights the lives of four leaders-Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucy Stone-but does not neglect the many other individuals who played noteworthy roles. The book concludes with the reunification of NWSA and AWSA in 1890 as a second generation of women took up the banner for suffrage and equal rights. The result is a useful text for undergraduate history and women's studies courses; general readers will also find it accessible and informative. Recommended for academic and public libraries.
—Linda V. Carlisle Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195182651
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
01/01/2008
Series:
Pivotal Moments in American History Series
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 6.40(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Sally McMillen is the Mary Reynolds Babcock Professor of History and Department Chair at Davidson College. She is the author of Motherhood in the Old South and Southern Women: Black and White in the Old South. She lives in Davidson, North Carolina.

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Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women's Rights Movement 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Erin Landers More than 1 year ago
I had to read this for a womens history course and really enjoyed it . What i enjoyed about this book was the content, not a dry read at all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago