Woman's Rights Petition to the New York Legislature, 1854
- Resolved, That the men who claim to be Christian Republicans and yet
class their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters among aliens, criminals, idiots,
and minors, unfit to be their coequal citizens, are guilty of absurd inconsistency
and presumption; that for males to govern females, without consent asked
or granted, is to perpetuate an aristocracy, utterly hostile to the principles and
spirit of free institutions; and that it is time for the people of the United States
and every State in the Union to put away forever that remnant of despotism
and feudal oligarchy, the caste of sex.
- Resolved, That women are human beings whose rights correspond with
their duties; that they are endowed with conscience, reason, affection, and energy,
for the use of which they are individually responsible; that like men
they are bound to advance the cause of truth, justice, and universal good in the
society and nation of which they are members; that in these United States
women constitute one-half the people; men constitute the other half; that
women are no more free in honor than men are to withhold their influence and
example from patriotic and philanthropic movements, and that men who deny
women to be their peers, and who shut them out from exercising a fair share of
power in the body politic, are arrogant usurpers, whose only apology is to be
found in prejudices transmitted from half-civilized and half-christianized ages.
WHEREAS, the family is the nursery of the State and the Church -- the God-
appointed seminary of the human race. Therefore
- Resolved, That the family, by men as well as women, should be held more
sacred than all other institutions; that it may not, without sin, be abandoned
or neglected by fathers any more than by mothers, for the sake of any of the
institutions devised by men -- for the government of the State or the Nation any
more than for the voluntary association of social reformers.
- Resolved, That women's duties and rights as daughters, sisters, wives, and
mothers, are not bounded within the circle of home; that in view of the sacredness
of their relations, they are not free to desert their fathers, brothers, husbands,
and sons amidst scenes of business, politics, and pleasure, and to leave
them alone in their struggles and temptations, but that as members of the
human family, for the sake of human advancement, women are bound as widely
as possible to give to men the influence of their aid and presence; and finally,
that universal experience attests that those nations and societies are most
orderly, high-toned, and rich in varied prosperity, where women most freely
intermingle with men in all spheres of active life.
- Resolved, That the fundamental error of the whole structure of legislation
and custom, whereby women are practically sustained, even in this republic, is
the preposterous fiction of law, that in the eye of the law the husband and
wife are one person, that person being the husband; that this falsehood itself,
the deposit of barbarism, tends perpetually to brutalize the marriage relation by
subjecting wives as irresponsible tools to the capricious authority of husbands;
that this degradation of married women re-acts inevitably to depress the
condition of single women, by impairing their own self-respect and man's respect
for them; and that the final result is that system of tutelage miscalled protection,
by which the industry of women is kept on half-pay, their affections trifled
with, their energies crippled, and even their noblest aspirations wasted away in
vain efforts, ennui, and regret.
- Resolved, That in consistency with the spirit and intent of the Statutes of
New York, enacted in 1848 and 1849, the design of which was to secure to
married women the entire control of their property, it is the duty of the Legislature
to make such amendments in the laws of the State as will enable married
women to conduct business, to form contracts, to sue and be sued in their own
names -- to receive and hold the gains of their industry, and be liable for their
own debts so far as their interests are separate from those of their husbands -- to
become joint owners in the joint earnings of the partnership, so far as these interests
are identified -- to bear witness for or against their husbands, and generally
to be held responsible for their own deeds.
- Resolved, That as acquiring property by all just and laudable means, and
the holding and devising of the same is a human right, women married and
single are entitled to this right, and all the usages or laws which withhold it
from them are manifestly unjust.
- Resolved, That every argument in favor of universal suffrage for males is
equally in favor of universal suffrage for females, and therefore if men may
claim the right of suffrage as necessary to the protection of all their rights in
any Government, so may women for the same reason.
- Resolved, That if man as man, has any peculiar claim to a representation
in the government, for himself, woman as woman, has a paramount claim to an
equal representation for herself.
- Resolved, Therefore, that whether you regard woman as like or unlike
man, she is in either case entitled to an equal joint participation with him in
all civil rights and duties.
- Resolved, That although men should grant us every specific claim, we
should hold them all by favor rather than right, unless they also concede, and
we exercise, the right of protecting ourselves by the elective franchise.
- Resolved, That if the essence of a trial by an "impartial jury" be a trial
by one's own equals, then has never a woman enjoyed that privilege in the hour
of her need as a culprit. We, therefore, respectfully demand of our Legislature
that, at least, the right of such trial by jury be accorded to women equally with
men -- that women be eligible to the jury-box, whenever one of their own sex is
arraigned at the bar.
- Resolved, That could the women of the State be heard on this question,
we should find the mass with us; as the mother's reluctance to give up the
guardianship of her children; the wife's unwillingness to submit to the abuse
of a drunken husband, the general sentiment in favor of equal property rights,
and the thousands of names in favor of our petition, raised with so little
effort, conclusive prove.
WHEREAS, The right of petition is guaranteed to every member of this
- Resolved, That it is the highest duty of legislators impartially to
investigate all claims for the redress of wrong, and alter and amend such laws as
prevent the administration of justice and equal rights to all.
Resolved, That all true-hearted men and women pledge themselves never to
relinquish their unceasing efforts in behalf of the full and equal rights of women,
until we have effaced the stigma resting on this republic, that while it theoretically
proclaims that all men are created equal, deprives one-half of its members
of the enjoyment of the rights and privileges possessed by the other.
Transcribed by Carolyn Sims and reverse-order proofed by Lloyd Benson,
Department of History, Furman University, from Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
et al., History of Woman Suffrage, (New York, Fowler
& Wells, Publishers, 1881), I, 593-595.