The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898

The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898

by Lisa Tetrault

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Overview

The story of how the women's rights movement began at the Seneca Falls convention of 1848 is a cherished American myth. The standard account credits founders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott with defining and then leading the campaign for women's suffrage. In her provocative new history, Lisa Tetrault demonstrates that Stanton, Anthony, and their peers gradually created and popularized this origins story during the second half of the nineteenth century in response to internal movement dynamics as well as the racial politics of memory after the Civil War. The founding mythology that coalesced in their speeches and writings--most notably Stanton and Anthony's History of Woman Suffrage--provided younger activists with the vital resource of a usable past for the ongoing struggle, and it helped consolidate Stanton and Anthony's leadership against challenges from the grassroots and rival suffragists.

As Tetrault shows, while this mythology has narrowed our understanding of the early efforts to champion women's rights, the myth of Seneca Falls itself became an influential factor in the suffrage movement. And along the way, its authors amassed the first archive of feminism and literally invented the modern discipline of women's history.

2015 Mary Jurich Nickliss Prize, Organization of American Historians

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469614281
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 06/15/2014
Series: Gender and American Culture
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 296
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Lisa Tetrault is associate professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University.

Table of Contents


The story of how the women's rights movement began at the Seneca Falls convention of 1848 is a cherished American myth. The standard account credits founders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott with defining and then leading the campaign for women's suffrage. In her provocative new history, Lisa Tetrault demonstrates that Stanton, Anthony, and their peers gradually created and popularized this origins story during the second half of the nineteenth century in response to internal movement dynamics as well as the racial politics of memory after the Civil War.

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From the Publisher

Tetrault examines how the history and memory of women's suffrage was created by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, as well as their legions of accomplices over time. She makes the convincing case that an archival approach to this 'construction' of a canonized memory will show us how an origins myth rooted in the narrative of Seneca Falls has hovered over the story and reputation of women's suffrage ever since Stanton and Anthony wrote their History. How and why Stanton and Anthony created their own myth of leadership as well as the progress narrative of their movement is a splendid case for how the politics of memory works in history.—David Blight, Yale University

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