American Portraits

Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Stand for Justice

In this lesson, students will learn about Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s role in the women’s suffrage movement. They will explore how her actions conformed to the ideas of justice and the many obstacles she had to overcome in achieving her purpose. Through her example, they will learn how they can pursue justice in their own lives.

Founding Principles

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Equality

Every individual is equal to every other person in regards to natural rights and treatment before the law.

Representative / Republican Government image

Representative / Republican Government

Form of government in which the people are sovereign (the ultimate source of power) and authorize representatives to make and carry out laws.

Narrative

In the spring of 1840, twenty-five-year-old Elizabeth Cady Stanton sailed to London on her honeymoon with her new husband, Henry Stanton. They were among forty Americans who were traveling across the Atlantic to attend the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. Besides getting to know his wife better, Henry took advantage of the trip to provide her with a reading list in abolitionist tracts and to tutor her on the fundamentals of the anti-slavery movement….

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

How does the pursuit of justice help shape our purpose and identity?

Virtue Defined

Justice is the capacity to determine and preserve our common rights.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will learn about Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s role in the women’s suffrage movement. They will explore how her actions conformed to the ideas of justice and the many obstacles she had to overcome in achieving her purpose. Through her example, they will learn how they can pursue justice in their own lives.

Objectives

  • Students will analyze Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s role in the women’s suffrage movement
  • Students will understand how they can be just in their own lives
  • Students will apply their knowledge of justice to their own lives

Background

In the early decades of the nineteenth century, a Second Great Awakening, or religious revival, swept through the United States. The evangelical fervor spawned numerous reform movements such as abolitionism, temperance, and prison reform. Reformers sought to alleviate harsh conditions, work for equality for all, eliminate vice, and create a utopian society. In general, they wanted to bring about a more just society.

These reform movements created organizations that engaged in politics and civil society. They sent out speakers to raise awareness, spread knowledge through pamphlets and newspapers, lobbied politicians in various levels of government, and learned how to create strong organizations. Many of the reform movements were controversial because of the change they sought. For example, the abolitionists had many detractors and were often the victims of mob violence.

Women were able to enter public life and participate in all of the reform movements because of the perception that they possessed an inherent moral quality that men lacked. Women, however, generally suffered inequality in most social and political institutions. They could not vote, could not own property, and could not serve on juries. Women did not have the same educational or economic opportunities as men. When women engaged in other reform movements for equality and justice, they began to gain a greater understanding of their own inequality. Moreover, women even experienced discrimination in the reform movements they joined.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the pioneers for women’s rights. She was the guiding force behind the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, which argued for equal rights, including women’s suffrage. Although the goal of women’s suffrage would not be achieved until decades later, when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified after World War I, the struggle for justice for women began with Stanton’s courageous actions.

Vocabulary

  • Abolition
  • Temperance movement
  • Alleviate
  • Vice
  • Suffrage
  • Bristled
  • Grievances
  • Demurred

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

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Questions

Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • What role did Elizabeth Cady Stanton play in the drive for women’s rights?
  • Why was this role so important for the movement?
  • What did Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s stand for justice say about her identity?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

Additional Resources

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