August 26, 2010 by Ilene H. Lang
On the night of July 20, 1848, the first convention to discuss the rights of women drew to a close at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York. Lucretia Mott, an outspoken Quaker deeply influenced by the Iroquois, was first to sign the closing document. The Declaration of Sentiments listed an array of “repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman,” chiefly:
He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.
Sixty-eight women and 32 men signed the original declaration, yet only one woman, Charlotte Woodward, would live long enough to vote in a U.S. election. It took more than 70 years to secure this inalienable right.
Women’s Equality Day, held annually on August 26th, commemorates this long struggle and reminds us of the challenges still ahead. The 1848 Declaration railed:
He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration.
Generations have passed since these words were written—and gaps in pay and employment persist. But I draw strength from Lucretia Mott and other trailblazers, who pledged their faith in “the final triumph of the Right and the True.”
Full equality will be achieved.