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Collection Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers

About this Collection

The papers of suffragist, reformer, and feminist theorist Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) cover the years 1814 to 1946, with most of the material concentrated between 1840 and 1902. Consisting of approximately 1,000 items (4,164 images), reproduced on five reels of recently digitized microfilm, the collection contains correspondence, speeches, articles, drafts of books, scrapbooks, and printed matter relating to Stanton and the woman's rights movement. Documented are her efforts on behalf of women's legal status and women's suffrage, the abolition of slavery, rights for African Americans following the Civil War, temperance, and other nineteenth-century social reform movements. Highlights of the collection include an official report and contemporary newspaper clippings relating to the historic 1848 convention in Seneca Falls, New York; drafts of Stanton's memoirs Eighty Years and More: Reminiscences, 1815-1897; and a draft of her controversial The Woman's Bible, which nearly splintered the suffrage movement when published in 1895.

Like her close collaborator Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), Stanton is one of the best-known women in American history, principally because of her role in the women's suffrage campaign in the nineteenth-century.  Although most often identified as a suffragist, Stanton participated in a variety of reform initiatives during her lifetime. Setting her sights on women's emancipation and equality in all arenas—political, economic, religious, and social—she viewed suffrage as an important but not singular goal. Since childhood, she had rebelled against the role assigned to women and chafed at being denied a university education because of her sex. As a young woman, she became involved in the temperance and antislavery movements, through which she met Henry Brewster Stanton (1805-1887), an abolitionist reformer and journalist, whom she married in May 1840. While honeymooning in England, Stanton became outraged when she and other women were barred from a major antislavery convention. The incident later spurred her and Lucretia Mott (1793-1880), a Quaker minister from Pennsylvania and one of the American delegates to the London meeting, to organize in July 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, a women's rights convention, which is considered by many as the beginning of the American woman suffrage movement. It was there that Stanton put forth her daring Declaration of Sentiments, including the then-radical demand for women's voting rights, a goal that would consume the women's movement for more than seventy years.

While leading the suffrage fight, Stanton along the way actively supported dress reform and women's health issues, greater educational and financial opportunities for women, more liberal divorce laws, and stronger women's property laws. She also became an outspoken critic of church authority, as best represented by publication of her controversial The Woman's Bible. A supporter of the temperance movement, though not particularly active in it, she insisted that drunkenness should be a cause for divorce. She maintained that women must have the right to their own wages and must take their rightful place in business and the professions. She believed that "self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice," and that women and men should be equal before the law, in churches, and in society.  She saw women's voting rights as basic to all other rights and campaigned for both state suffrage laws as well as a federal constitutional amendment that would secure such rights for women nationally.

The collection elucidates the goals, tactics, and activities of those associated with the woman's rights campaign and depicts both external opposition as well as internal division. The correspondence provides glimpses into Stanton's family life illustrating how she balanced her family responsibilities with the demands placed on her as a leader in the movement. Her speeches and writings document in detail her stand on woman's rights and her concern for other contemporary social issues.

Stanton's papers were acquired by the Library of Congress chiefly as a gift from Susan B. Anthony in 1903 and from Stanton's daughter, Harriot Stanton Blatch, in 1927-1928. Smaller accessions of material were acquired by gift and purchase through 1957. Those papers donated by Blatch and originally arranged in scrapbooks were dismantled and interfiled with the other papers that make up the collection. Blatch's notes on various items have been retained and are filed with the relevant manuscripts. The scrapbooks which were prepared by Susan B. Anthony (see Miscellany) have been kept as units except for some original manuscript material they contained. This material was removed and interfiled in the papers with identifying notes.

Prominent correspondents represented in the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers include Susan B. Anthony, Daniel Cady, W. H. Channing, Lydia Maria Francis Child, Frances Power Cobbe, Paulina W. Davis, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Julia Ward Howe, Lucretia Mott, Emmeline Pankhurst, Wendell Phillips, Elizabeth E. Pike, Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt, John Osborne Sargent, Elizabeth Oakes Prince Smith, Gerrit Smith, Henry B. Stanton, Lucy Stone, John Swinton, Theodore Tilton, Thurlow Weed, and John Greenleaf Whittier.

A finding aid (PDF and HTML) to the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers is available online with links to the digital content on this site.

The collection is arranged in four series:

  • General Correspondence, 1814-1928
    Letters sent and received. Arranged chronologically.
  • Speeches and Writings, 1848-1902
    Drafts of books, drafts and holograph and printed copies of articles and speeches, published letters, and miscellaneous writings. Arranged by type of material and chronologically therein.
  • Miscellany, 1840-1946
    Biographical data, certificates, printed matter, speeches by others, and scrapbooks. Arranged alphabetically by type of material or subject name.
  • Oversize, undated
    Handwritten draft of The Woman's Bible. Contains only Stanton’s contributions and consists of passages from the books of Genesis, Exodus and Numbers, published in The Woman’s Bible, Part I, and from Matthew in The Woman’s Bible, Part II.  Described according to the series, folder and box from which the sections were removed. 
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