The evolving roles of women during the 1840s
During the 1840s, many female pioneers traveled across America along the old Oregon Trail. Although these women were still tasked with traditional chores such as cooking, cleaning and taking care of their children, many of them were forced by necessity to take on some of the responsibilities that men usually handled. However, the trail was not the only place where women experienced changes in their daily lives. While the pioneers were working their way across the continental U.S., a few brave and independent souls were protesting their rights as women in a tiny New York town.
On July 19-20, 1848, a group of women met in Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss women's rights and attend a lecture given by prominent revolutionary Lucretia Mott. Many of the individuals who attended this event, later dubbed the Seneca Falls Convention, went on to play important parts in the women's rights movement of the 19th century. This conference is often thought of as the beginning of the process that led to women and men being equal in the eyes of the law.
While the women who met during this two-day event discussed many topics, including the banning of slavery, current politics and religion, the most important thing that happened at the Seneca Falls Convention may be the presentation of the Declaration of Sentiments. This document was modeled after the Declaration of Independence and included a list of the rights women thought they deserved. While the document was originally written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, many people added their thoughts to the piece over the course of the convention.
Although the Seneca Falls Convention dealt with the issue of women's rights and suffrage, many men chose to attend and participate as well. For instance, well-known abolitionist and public speaker Fredrick Douglass was involved and even stood up to speak in favor of equal rights for both sexes.