We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all Men and Women are Created Equal.
-- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1848.
Elizabeth was 33 when she detonated the battle of women's suffrage with these word. When the battle ended, she was 18 years dead. And had made more enemies than friends.
But women had the vote.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton has become an empty name; Susan B. Anthony’s junior partner in the Battle for Suffrage. But in their lifetimes, Stanton was universally known and internationally respected. The scope and clarity of her vision laid bare the unequal treatment of women, her knowledge of the law influenced and shaped corrective legislation, and the eloquence of her words gave voice to women who did not know they could speak. At the same time, when she felt the movement had been betrayed in the fight for Negro suffrage – Negro male suffrage, that is, she fought dirty and without apology, undercutting her own message of equality for all.
Maybe we tolerate that in men, but we really don’t like it from the ladies.
Created Equal explores the life of this extraordinary woman; not an icon of self-sacrifice, but an ego-driven powerhouse, who was determined to express her potential, though the world opposed her at every turn. Stanton was a mother of seven healthy children; Founding Mother of the Suffrage movement and, with Anthony, one of its unquestioned leaders; wife to a once-dazzling Abolitionist, whose activism kept him on the road for months at a time; and friend and comrade to Frederick Douglass, with whom she formed a powerful alliance for Universal Suffrage. Stanton helped to create the fundamental conditions from which today’s women benefit, so we should know her. And we should also know why we don’t. Charming, imperious, and just a little too radical for the room, Elizabeth Cady Stanton pissed off almost as many people as she inspired.
We may have begrudging respect for our flawed heroes, but a big, messy, flawed heroine is... I don’t know. Do we have any?
Possibly the most famous woman in America when she died, Elizabeth is virtually unknown today. It’s like erasing Malcolm X from the story of 20th century civil rights. He might make us uncomfortable...but you can neither tell nor understand it without him. Guided by Elizabeth’s penetrating brilliance, these women willed their equality - our equality - into the public mind, fighting ridicule and insult and humiliation from all sides; home and family, church and state. Denied the right to even study law, much less practice it, in both significance and intellectual reach, Elizabeth was the Ruth Bader Ginsburg of her time. Without Elizabeth, there is no RBG.
Gifted and righteous and limited and flawed, Elizabeth was capable of great accomplishment and disappointing failure, of lofty intention and vile behavior. She was a human being.
Which, when you think about it, was her point all along.