Week 11: The Era of Reform: 1840-1865 (Women’s Rights). Post Due: Wed., Nov. 17

For the remainder of the semester, we will be focusing on American Literature during the Era of Reform. This era (also known as the American Renaissance) saw the emergence of remarkable writers and thinkers dedicated to realizing the promise of a vital, engaged democracy. Writers such as Margeret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglas, and Louisa May Alcott focused on a number of issues needing improvement in America ranging from women’s rights, worker rights, education for all, and an overall enlightened political and artistic culture.

As we start this final section, I want you to start thinking about a topic (author or theme) that you would like to write about for your Essay Assignment (I am only requiring one essay for this class). You may focus on readings we’ve done (working from one of your earlier posts perhaps) or choose a topic from upcoming authors (you could also focus on a film I’ve recommended).  

HERE ARE DIRECTIONS FOR THE ESSAY. 

HERE IS A SAMPLE STUDENT ESSAY (AND WRITING TIPS)

Please choose a topic by Nov. 25. The essay will be due Dec. 14. Please email me about any questions you may have or for a topic suggestion (mnoonan@citytech.cuny.edu).

For this week we will focus on the fight for equality for men AND women. This story begins in a town in New York state called Seneca Falls. It was here in 1848, that women (led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony) met at a convention to demand their rights. Together they penned the Declaration of Sentiments, which as you’ll note, was a re-writing of the original Declaration of Independence (1776).

Read: Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Declaration of Sentiments” (1848). Also important in this fight was the Transendentalist Margaret Fuller, who wrote Woman in the 19th Century. Here is an excerpt from her landmark book: “Educate Men and Women as Souls”

Importantly, Sojourner Truth called out the early fight for Women’s Rights for not including African American women as well in their efforts.

Listen to what she had to say in this speech reenactment: VIDEO

Here is the original text of the speech: “Ain’t I a Woman?”

In 2020, the first monument to women went up in Central Park featuring Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth. Read the STORY here.

There is also a remarkable and important film on the great African American Freedom Fighter Harriet Tubman, which I highly encourage you to watch (if not now perhaps over the break). The film shows Tubman’s courageous work on “the Underground Railroad” in which she helped southern enslaved persons escape their masters to flee north. View film trailer here: Harriet Tubman

I also HIGHLY recommend the recent film version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women , which provides a wonderful sense of life in the 1840s in Concord from the perspective of courageous, talented young ladies. View film trailer Here.

For this week, please read and watch the above mentioned readings and videos. In your post, respond to ONE of them. Alternately, pick a grievance from the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments and speak to how this issue relates to women’s position in society today (cite an example if you can).

EXTRA CREDIT EVENT:

Consider attending “The Soho Memory Project” discussion (Tues. 11/16 1-2 pm)

A discussion on Zoom of the SoHo Memory Project Documentary with City Tech Professor Josh Kapusinski (COMD, Moving Pixels Club), Jonathan Baez (City Tech alum and cinematographer), and Or Szyflingier (alum and director).

Consider reviewing the accompanying article and video:

I will offer extra credit for attending this event.

EVENT ZOOM LINK: 

Preserving and Telling a New York Story (Tues., Nov 16 1-2pm)https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87040228416?pwd=UnNHMzRSSU1IQzVhZXoxWkZHZUg3UT09

Meeting ID: 870 4022 8416

Passcode: 175967

One tap mobile+16465588656,,87040228416#,,,,*175967# US (New York)+13017158592,,87040228416#,,,,*175967# US (Washington DC) Dial by your location        +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)

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35 Comments

  1. majoguadua

    After finishing my readings, I can say that freedom was an extensively long road that humanity had to travel. And even after finding such freedom, still oppression was being experienced. Now not only with white people owning black people. But also with the fact that men owned women. Pretty ironic right? the men fought for their freedom to later become what they hated, oppressors. But now of one gender.

    I was struck by this part of “Educate Men and Women as Souls” that says: “Indeed, all that is wanting is, that Man should prove his own freedom by making her free”.
    This summarizes in a perfect way my thoughts.

    Reading the “Declaration of Sentiments” made me think how women were so wise and cunning to write a document like this one, quoting parts of the declaration of independence, practically using the same words that were used to mean freedom from any oppressor, but now of one genre over another.

    As a woman, it feels so good to read and learn about the importance that these women had in history. The statue of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth in Central Park would be on my list next time I step into the park. And these movies look so interesting to watch as well.

    • Mark Noonan

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these readings Maria. I love the quote you pulled from Fuller:
      “Indeed, all that is wanting is, that Man should prove his own freedom by making her free”.

      Actively fighting for equality is a job to be done by men as much as by women!

    • sumayah

      a very powerful quote that you stated!

  2. sumayah

    I was so astonished by the speech that Sojourner truth gave, it was called “ain’t I a woman” her argument really made me continue reading her speech she states “Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?” thus text is strong because it explicitly shows the true meaning of being equal by using comparison to get to her audience with logic.

    another quote that actually stood out to me was when she stated “Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as many rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from?” this statement was so powerful because certainly, everything comes from us females, kids come from females, happiness come from females. In order to build a family, you need a female! females are so powerful and it’s so sad we are always underestimated

    • Mark Noonan

      Nice reading of this “astonishing” piece of oratory by Sojourner Truth, Sumayah!

  3. Brianna

    “Ain’t I a Women” by Sojourner Truth was a really powerful speech. One purpose of the speech was to identify the gender inequalities between black women, and black men. One statement she said that stood out to me is , “Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.” this statement shows that men think so lowly of women that’s why they believe men and women don’t deserve equal rights. They think so lowly of women yet we are important in many aspects. The most important aspect is there would be no creation of man without us women.

    • Mark Noonan

      Brianna, You really get at the heart of Sojourner Truth’s true genius in this short but amazing piece.

  4. Karina

    After seeing the reenactment of Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” and reading the actual text, I was completely amazed by such great words and powerful speech she gave in the 19th century. This speech hit home run, because it still symbolizes how to this day as a woman I still see such inequality. It definitely must have worse back in the 19th century where slavery was happening and women were treated as men’s property. Just as many of my classmates already pointed out, I believe that this line really stood out and spoke out to many, “Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.” Why do men believe they have more power than women, why is that they believe they deserve more rights and more everything then us women? Many times I ask myself, if roles were reversed and men had to be the ones who stayed home to care for the children and thus be the ones doing chores, cooking, laundry aside from their regular work, would they be able to hold up to this? Men don’t see that being a housewife while doing their job is actually hard, and so need to be treated equally. Men and women should be equals, not one worth more than the other gender.

    • Mark Noonan

      Karina, What a great response to Truth’s outspoken truths! I like the “truths” that you provide here:

      Many times I ask myself, if roles were reversed and men had to be the ones who stayed home to care for the children and thus be the ones doing chores, cooking, laundry aside from their regular work, would they be able to hold up to this? Men don’t see that being a housewife while doing their job is actually hard, and so need to be treated equally. Men and women should be equals, not one worth more than the other gender.

      Well said!!

  5. Amina Shabbir

    The “Declaration of Sentiments” was developed to urge citizens to make the government pass legislation giving women the same rights as men, since women were constantly abused and exploited by men. “He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration.” This illustrates how men have maintained the highest paying occupations for themselves, while the ones offered to women did not actually pay well. I think that something never changes, as even today, women still do not have the same job opportunities as men. “He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes, and in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given, as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women—the law, in all cases, going upon a false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his hands.” Aside from the workplace, this was another clear demonstration of how difficult it was for women to divorce. Moreover, filing for divorce risked losing access to their children because the law favored husbands over wives. In my opinion, the “Declaration of Sentiments” was an interesting example of when and where women were treated differently than men, and how men could get away with certain acts while women had to fight for their own rights. I feel that certain things have improved since 1848, but there is still a lot to be done.

    • Mark Noonan

      Amina, You pick important sections from this document that are still so relevant today. Your last line is super spot on:

      I feel that certain things have improved since 1848, but there is still a lot to be done.

  6. Ulises

    In the reading the “Declaration of Sentiments” by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, It shows profoundly how women felt at that time, as it shows that man was the evil one by stating how “He” controlled and had a step ahead of women in politics, relationships, work, decisions, rights and much more… A quote that fully demonstrates the inequality is the following one: “He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men—both natives and foreigners.” This shows how a man without principles and without values, could have a better life than a woman, simply because of gender. Besides, a foreign man could even have more opportunities than a native woman in her own country, which calls itself and represents as “freedom,” clearly ironic!

    • Mark Noonan

      Interesting choice of quote here Ulises. You clarify the argument well that women have fewer rights than even recent immigrants do. The line, at the same time, shows that how these feminist of 1848 had their own prejudices to work on (Trump anti- immigrant-ism and as Sojourner Truth shows : anti-black racism).

      Your comment on how the piece still speaks to gender inquality across “politics, relationships, work, decisions, and basic rights” is a also excellent.

  7. Mohammed Islam

    After reading “Ain’t I A Women?” by Sojourner Truth, it made me think about how women were treated earlier in history. Not just women, but women of color were treated especially harsh. She mentions how she received lashes just like a man would, she can eat just like a man could, and on top of all that she gave birth to thirteen kids. She says “Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children”. This reminds me of the one song that goes “Anything you can do, I can do better”, she went through what other men went through plus gave birth to children. Also, when women started getting more rights, they never took women of color into consideration. It’s almost as once there was a small win against sexism there still a loss against racism. Women should have stuck by their fellow women.

    • Mark Noonan

      Excellent commentary about the long history of abuse against women, Mohammed. Your last line about the racist aspects of the early feminist movement is also really important to keep in mind:

      Women should have stuck by their fellow women.

  8. Brian Chan

    An issue from “A grievance from the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments” that stuck out to me was the suppression of the ability to be independent while having strength in one’s choices. We see this when the reading mentions, ” He has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life”. This issue relates to women’s position in society today by limiting their overall quality of life and treating them as if they cannot act on their own. An example of this is Britney Spears’s conservatorship, in which her parents took on major control of her life for around 13 years and Britney suffered a lot because of this. This is just one of the many cases of suppression, many of which are not heard of and it goes to show how important it is to not overlook the rights and values of not only women, but both genders.

    • Mark Noonan

      Great points Brian about how women’s independence has long been curtailed by men.

      The Britney Spears example is a great one to call attention to here.

  9. Tenzin Tsomo

    In the speech, “ain’t I a woman”, the repeated phrase “ain’t I a woman?” Truth points out the double standards and racism that define her era’s movement for women’s rights. She emphasizes painful anecdotes both from her life as a previously enslaved woman and from her present life as a free individual fighting for abolition and women’s rights. The common between these two different parts of Truth’s life is that she’s always excluded from being treated like a woman because of the color of her skin and she’s always found herself frustrated and wonders, “ain’t I a woman?” She emphasizes that men does such things as helping the white women into carriages and over mud puddles but they never do such things for truth, failing to recognize her as a woman since she’s black.
    Truth also points out that until all women, regardless of race, are recognized as women and allowed to participate in the women’s rights movement as equals, the movement as a whole will suffer. I believe that it is important to stand up for women’s right because we cannot have a free and equal society until everyone is free and equal. Until women enjoy the the same rights as men, this inequality is everyone’s problem. In addition, protecting women’s rights makes the world a better place and we’re stronger when we work together.

    • Mark Noonan

      Very thoughtful and elaborate working out of Sojourner’s important “truth”, Tenzin. African American women have long been overlooked in the feminist movement and Sojourner Truth was the first to really call this out — as you so articulately express.

  10. Ariel Montesino

    Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s, “Declaration of Sentiments”, expresses the many rights women were stripped and how it changed them as human beings. I didn’t even know Susan B. Anthony campaign’d this early. I only remember her work from the early 20th century where she had helped pass 19th amendment. It does make sense though. From not only changing the way women are viewed but also granting them rights they should have had since the start. I feel like women’s position in society is okay right now. I do think they went overboard with their suggestions since women are now required to register for the draft. It just doesn’t seem like something every woman would want to participate in.

    • Mark Noonan

      Thanks for your thoughtful post Ariel. I agree with you that women today have more rights than ever before but don’t they still have a long long way to go in some areas (certainly this is true in other parts of the world such as Afghanistan)?

  11. Zarif

    In Sojourner Truths “Aint I A Woman?” there plenty of very powerful statements that stood out to me. She claims how she is a woman but no where nearly gets treated as one. “I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?” This is a very emotional and powerful statement, she then explains how black women have struggled their whole life and deserve to be treated differently.
    In the “Declaration of Sentiments” there shows many grievances for women. One states “He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her.” This explains how women are deprived of their rights when being with a man, this puts women in a lower position of power today generally because of the way things were from before unfortunately.

    • Mark Noonan

      Zarif,

      You pick out the most powerful lines in both of these pieces. They are indeed powerful and important as you so astutely discuss.

  12. Enson Zhou

    After reading “The Seneca Falls“Declaration of Sentiments” it reminded me of the past when women were not allowed to do certain things like a vote or get a job. The women could not even fight for their own freedom or rights. For example in the reading the author says “He has never permitted her to exercise her
    inalienable right to the elective franchise.
    He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the
    formation of which she had no voice.
    He has withheld from her rights which are
    given to the most ignorant and degraded men—
    both natives and foreigners.” This shows that equality back then was basically non-existent. Only men were allowed to exercise their rights and get jobs. Even if single women-owned a house she would be taxed by the government. This is stated by the author in the reading when he says”After depriving her of all rights as a married
    woman, if single, and the owner of property, has taxed her to support a government that recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it.” These are just two of the ways women and men were not treated equally back then. As we are slowly working on a more equal world, there are still some instances that experience inequality like wage gaps. In this society, WNBA players get paid less than Male NBA players and one of the main reasons this happened is because the WNBA doesn’t get enough funding. Hopefully, at some point, we will get justice for all as stated in the Pledge Of Allegiance.

    • Mark Noonan

      Great post Enson. Your reference to how WNBA women get far less money than their male counterparts is an excellent one. It also reminds of how the women’s basketball team during the Summer Olympics were given wretched training facilities compared to the U.S. men.

  13. Nelson Estrella II

    After going over all The readings, the one that left me amazed was the speech. Sojourner Truth allegedly “ran away” from her slave master and became a powerful and memorable name when it comes to defending and pushing for women’s rights. Truth gives a speech on how all things the men say shouldn’t be the way we’re represented we have Rights to. She later goes on to say how she isn’t being treated equally and how she doesn’t get the same help that she is supposed to be getting even though she does just as much or even more work as the men, then she begins to talk on an incident on how a man told her that she shouldn’t have “as much rights as men” which she found to be foolishness which I agree with. In my opinion men back during the time women were fighting for equal rights had some type of fear that women could be as powerful to them. Many maybe were intimidated by the fact of a woman being able to have as much say as them.

    • Mark Noonan

      Excellent reading Nelson of this truly “astonishing” and important speech by Truth (filled with lots of very hard truths!)

  14. Terri.Ann

    Reading The Seneca Falls “Declaration of Sentiments” made me think how men have systematically oppressed basically everybody else from the beginning of time – especially to those who are not white or male. In all areas of life women were held back economically, educationally and socially. Women were not allowed to work, education was rarely offered, couldn’t own property without a man, couldn’t choose to divorce and so much more. While there have been major improvements in women liberation- today there are still some discrepancies in equality between males and females. For one thing women are still paid less than men in the workforce. There are remarkably more male CEOs than females as well. On most things women are constantly overlooked. I notice that even during a group discussion men seem to always downplay the intelligence of women. Why are men’s egos so fragile to the point of needing to put down women?

    • Mark Noonan

      I couldn’t agree more with all of your astute points Terri Ann. Men have indeed “systematically oppressed basically everybody else from the beginning of time – especially those who are not white”. The anti-female bias of too many men also persists today in more subtle ways — as you suggest.

  15. Amyl

    After reading multiple articles, I felt “Monument to Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth Unveiled in Central Park” resonated with me well. I very much agreed with Gillibrands, “Every woman who votes, protests, or serves in the office today does so standing on the shoulder of these three giants.” I hadn’t known that the monument was initially just of Stanton and Anthony, both white women. It was only recently, in 2019 where they added Sojourner. These women were the foundations of helping women fight for equal rights to men and stood firm under the face of discrimination. I did not know Stanton was the first woman to run for Congress and the founder of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association with Anthony. The right for women right to vote was a long one, but one that made every difference giving us the power to voice our opinions. How did they expect America to be the land of opportunities when they had suppressed so many people through discrimination, segregation, and injustices. Sojourner Truth was originally a slave who had joined the abolitionist moment. Even if we may not know her face, we’ve all heard of her name and even of her famous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman.” I remember listening to this back in elementary school and still remember it till this day for how powerful she carried her speech. Marika says it right about the monument, “This monument isn’t just here to remind us of our past. It’s here to remind our future to continue to stand up for what’s right, continue to stand up for what you believe in, and continue to stand up for equality.” Human rights do not just involve men; it affects all of us, so we fight for each race and gender. The reading of “Declaration of Sentiments” helped me think about the hardship of women to men during this period. The quote, “He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice,” makes me think, wow. The feeling of those women who were able to listen or read about this must-have felt so empowering to say everything that makes sense. A lot of the laws back then were sexist and racist. Without Anthony, Stanton, and Truth, I can’t imagine how it would be a woman today without them.

    • Mark Noonan

      Excellent points Amy. I like how you quoted NY Senator Gillibrand, “Every woman who votes, protests, or serves in the office today does so standing on the shoulder of these three giants.” She is indeed an example of a modern day feminist legislator fight especially for the dignity and rights of all women. It’s also interesting (and dismaying) how she gets attacked far more than other politicians — largely because of her aggressive feminism.

  16. Paulina

    The reading I decided to go over was Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Declaration of Sentiments” (1848). A part of the reading that stood out to me was when it stated “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.” This stood out to me because this showed how there are men that want to have total and unbalanced power over women. Another thing that stood out to me was when it stated “He has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.” This stood out to me because I found it very heartbreaking how someone would ever want to do that to a woman. Why not support them instead of tearing them down? It’s sad how there are really people like that out there in the world and have to go over something like that.

    • Mark Noonan

      You picked out a great line to quote, Paulina, from this document:

      “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.”

      Why not support women fighting for basic rights here and in the US, indeed!!!

  17. Mehreen Khanom

    Reading “Declaration of Sentiments” made me realize how unfair and cruel women’s lives were in the old days. It’s sad to even think that such things still currently happen today. As it states “destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life,” shows women have been suffering for a long period of time because there are millions of women who lose self-respect by depending on men. In some cultures today, people think men should be in control and have power while women cook, clean, and take care of children. Even though women’s rights have improved all over the world, there are still places where women are helpless. It’s 2021, women should be able to do everything they desire without men holding them back. Men should support women to live life the way they want and achieve their goals, vise versa.

  18. haroodg

    While reading the excerpt from Margaret Fuller’s landmark book: “Educate Men and Women as Souls” I felt the text was quite challenging at first, but after my second reading, I noticed a sense of “compassion” for both men and women. The title “Educate Men and Women as Souls” is a perfect title for this excerpt because it describes the similarities between men and women and shows the lack of recognition society gives women. This section is written like a letter of grievance that elaborates on the unfair treatment women suffer in society, especially at that time. Women have been continually taught what they should be and any progress that could be made has been stifled by this constant indoctrination.

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