Monday, April 5, 2010

Elizabeth Cady Stanton by Lori D Ginzberg ***

In 1850, Elizabeth Cady Stanton established the basis for same-sex marriage when "in one swift gesture, she demoted marriage from a sacred act to a civil function and raised divorce from an offense against God to a civil, contractual right." While the popular culture remembers Susan B Anthony, in fact the two women worked side-by-side for over fifty years.

While Susan B Anthony managed the political and organizational demands of the campaign for Women's suffrage, that began in 1848 with the Seneca Falls Convention, until her death in 1906 - more than a decade short of the 19th amendment that finally granted women the vote. On the other hand, while Elizabeth Cady Stanton also dedicated herself to women's suffrage, she also wrote and spoke on a wide range of other radical and controversial topics.

For example she wrote a The Woman's Bible, a non-sexist reinterpretation of the traditional Judeo-Christian Bible - certainly years (if not centuries) ahead of its time. In a more successful campaign, she advocated divorce reform; interestingly, in the 19th century fathers automatically received custody of the children.

She was not beyond ideas that did not support women's suffrage. As she saw success looming (she was a very positive person), she felt more anxious about how the women would vote, then in hastening the day when they should vote. She went so far to state "she would prefer to live under a government of man along with religious liberty than under a mixed government without it." Think about that! and it was written over 100 years ago.

The book, written by historian and women's studies professor Lori D Ginzberg, is both a little slow and a lot fascinating. As the author admits:
The book offers a view of Elizabeth Cady Stanton that is more critical and, I think, more complicated
If you are serious about the history of women's rights, you definitely want to read this one.

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