A nineteenth-century father, whose young son had just died, sat grieving in a darkened parlor. Seeking to comfort him, his eleven-year-old daughter sat on his lap, her head resting against his chest. With his arm around her, this father took in a deep breath and said, “Oh, my daughter, I wish you were a boy.”
Searing emotional pain rushed through the young girl. Still in her formative years and deeply devoted to her father, she wondered: Why would my father say these hurtful words to me? Why do I not measure up to my brother? Though unable to answer her questions, she was eager to fill the emptiness of grief in her father’s breast. “I will try to be all my brother was,” she uttered. And so she did.
She achieved honors in Greek. She learned to ride horseback. She carried out her promise to be all her brother was, but she never heard from her father the words she longed to hear: “a girl is as good as a boy.” The tears she hid from him contained the hurt and confusion she felt.
This little girl was Elizabeth Cady, who later became Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The impact of her father’s words, though painful, helped serve as the passion and drive for the life she lived and the work she pursued.
Stanton grew to be a gifted writer and orator. Along with her close friend and colleague,
Susan B. Anthony, Stanton worked tirelessly to challenge the culture that oppressed the voices of women. She kept busy traveling, writing, and giving speeches on behalf of women’s rights, especially the right to vote. One of her first accomplishments, done in collaboration with four other young women, was to organize the first women’s rights convention, held in Seneca, New York, on July 19-20, 1848.
In this month of Stanton’s birth, I remember her with admiration for her outspokenness, determination, perseverance, and courage to work passionately for what she deeply believed in.
I must do the same.
“If we consider [a woman] as a citizen, as a member of a great nation, she must have the same rights as all other members, according to the fundamental principles of our government” –Elizabeth Cady Stanton