A New York Public Library "Best Book for the Teen Age"


"A book that imparts a sense of the accomplishments of early American women and documents the life of one of the best educated and most radical individuals of her day. Cady Stanton's traditional yet startingly unique life foreshadows the progress and problems of the early women's movement and points to the challenges for the 20th century. The presentation is superb, relying on original sources and written in a style that is both accessible to young readers and sophisticated enough to do justice to its subject matter. The text is supplemented by archival photographs and reproductions of Cady Stanton and her family that capture the character of the woman and her times." --SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

"In keeping with the concept of a 'fresh approach' to famous Americans' biographies, the author presents a humanistic picture of one of the original women's rights movement leaders. Stanton fought for what she believed right from her chidhood to her death. Cullen-DuPont provides an intimate portrait of Elizabeth as wife, mother and activist. Speech segments and rare photographs complete an interesting and well-done account."

"...paint[s] a clear picture of this determined suffragist's life as a public reformer and the tensions she faced trying to fulfull her other roles as wife and mother." --INSTRUCTIONAL MEDIA

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Women's Liberty

by Kathryn Cullen-DuPont

From Chapter One: "The Brink of a Precipice"

May 10, 1840 was a Friday, an allegedly unlucky day to enter the state of matrimony. But Elizabeth Cady refused to worry. The day before, she'd finally decided to marry Henry Stanton; she would have married him that same afternoon, an uncontroversial Thursday, but Mr. Stanton's journey to her side via the North River (as the Hudson was then called) had been slowed by a sandbar.

His courtship of her had earlier faced its own impediments: he was a well-known abolitionist, that is, a person committed to working for an end to slavery and the granting of U.S. citizenship to black people in America. Many people held antislvery views that were more limited than the views held by abolitionists; for example, while some antislavery people felt that slavery was morally wrong, they nevertheless made no claims for the equality of black and white human beings and offered colonization--the deportation of black men and women to Africa or other destinations--as a way to rid the United States of slavery. Henry B. Stanton, then, as an abolitionist, belonged to the most radical segnent of the antislavery movement. He was known for his brave silencing of hostile mobs, and Elizabeth thought him a hero. Her conservative father, Judge Daniel Cady, did not. Moreover, Herny Stanton was penniless. When Elizabeth first became betrothed to him, Judge Cady and other members of the Cady family insisted that she break her engagement. She did, but she would not stop corresponding with the man she loved. Henry Stanton had, Elizathe thought, "one of the most eloquent pens of this generation." By letter alone, he was able to convince her of a future "as bright and beautiful as Spring." Then he wrote that he was going to Europe for several months as a delegate to the World Anti-Slavery Convention. Elizabeth despaired. As she later recalled, she "did not wish the ocean to roll between us." Asked once more if she'd like to marry, Elizabeth Cady said "yes." She and Henry would elope.

The Reverend Hugh Marie had agreed to marry the couple in secrecy, but he had not agreed to Friday nuptuals. Now he was begging them to wait. Tormorrow would be Saturday, he said, and much luckier. Elizabeth laughed. Henry Stanton was at her side, and a new life of love and freedom was about to begin. Friday's luck? She brushed that aside. Instead, she raised an objection of her own: to the marriage vow binding her "to love, honor and obey" her husband. "I obstinately refused," she later recalled in her autobiography, "to obey one with whom I supposed I was intering into an equal relation."

This was a shocking innovation in 1840. At the time, a man received control of a woman's body upon marriage: Once wed, a woman could not refuse her husband's sexual advances. The rare omission of "obey" from a bride's vows meant that she intended to grant or withhold consent according to her own desires. Henry Stanton, attending a wedding the year before, had heard another bride so refuse to "obey." Now he supported his own bride's wishes. The Reverend Marie, however, was very upset, and it was only at the end of a lengthy argument that he finally agreed to a Friday wedding with modified vows. Then, all obstacles to their union overcome, Elizabeth Cady and Henry B. Stanton were married.

Copyright 1992 by Kathryn Cullen-DuPont

(Library of Congress)

My Works

My Works

A global and historical examination of women's role in religion and religion's role in women's lives
An examination and analysis of this modern form of slavery
An anthology of women's voices
The most recent edition of this award-winning encyclopedia
Four centuries of women's legal history in America in one volume
The compelling story of women's struggle to win the vote
An award-winning biography for young adult readers
With an introduction by Kathryn Cullen-DuPont
Contributor to:
Two hundred trials, from the Salem Witchcraft trials to Rodney King; Kathryn Cullen-DuPont, contributing author
The award-winning CD-ROM project; Kathryn Cullen-DuPont, advisory board member and contributing author