Tea, Talk, and Convention Planning

On July 9, 1848, over tea and talk at the home of Jane Hunt, five women decided to hold a convention to discuss women’s rights. The women: Hunt, Lucretia Mott, Mott’s younger sister Martha Coffin Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary Ann McClintock, would not live to see women’s voting rights as the law of the land.

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Stanton complained to her friends of her long-accumulating discontent with the plight of women. In addition to being denied the right to vote, at the time of the tea, women were not allowed to own property, enter into contracts and, in many areas, speak in public. The women decided to hold a convention eight days later.

On July 11, the first announcement appeared in the Seneca County Courier. Eight days after the five women talked over tea, more than 300 women and men gathered for what would be considered the true start of the fight for American women’s right to vote. However, the very controversial topic of granting women the right to vote was not the convention’s original intent. The primary purpose of the convention was to discuss the social, civil and religious rights of women.

The first day of the convention was for women only. On Day Two, men were allowed to join. Frederick Douglass, Richard P. Hunt and James Mott were in attendance. The second day, 11 resolutions were considered. All passed unanimously except for the provision to grant women the vote. Only after an eloquent appeal by Frederick Douglass did the measure squeak through.

At the close of the convention, 68 women and 32 men signed the “Declaration of Sentiments”. The declaration was covered widely by the press and because of its boldness in asserting that men and women were equal, it received much criticism. One publication called it, “the most shocking and unnatural event ever recorded in the history of womanity.” Charlotte Woodward Pierce would be the only woman who signed the Declaration of Sentiments to live to see women granted the right to vote 72 years later in 1920.

Deana Bass Williams