Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Seneca Falls Convention: Teaching about the Rights of Women and the Heritage of the Declaration of Independence

The Seneca Falls Convention: Teaching about the Rights of Women and the Heritage of the Declaration of Independence. This is an article which details the famous feminist Seneca Falls Convention in the 1840s. It alos has ideas for teaching about the whole event in schools.

From the site:

Different groups at different times have turned to founding documents of the United States to meet their needs and to declare their entitlement to the promises of the Revolution of 1776. At Seneca Falls, New York in the summer of 1848, a group of American men and women met to discuss the legal limitations imposed on women during this period. Their consciousness of those limitations had been raised by their participation in the anti-slavery movement; eventually they used the language and structure of the Declaration of Independence to stake their claim to the rights they felt women were entitled to as American citizens. This Digest places the events of the Seneca Falls Convention within the larger context of American reform movements of the 1840s, discusses the influence of the Declaration of Independence on the Convention, and provides teachers and students with a sampling of social studies curriculum resources such as primary source documents, books, articles, and lesson plans available through local libraries or the World Wide Web.


America in the 1840s was in the throes of cultural and economic change. In the years since the Revolution and the Constitutional Convention, the nation's geographic boundaries and population had more than doubled, the population had shifted significantly westward, and many Americans' daily lives had drifted away from Jefferson's vision of a nation composed of independent farmers. Instead, farmers, artisans, and manufacturers existed in a world built around cash crops, manufactured goods, banks, and distant markets. Historians generally refer to this shift from production for a local economy based on a series of shared relationships to production for a distant, unknown market as the Market Revolution. Not all Americans welcomed these changes, which often left them feeling isolated and cut off from traditional sources of community and comfort.

In an effort to regain a sense of community and control over their nation's future, Americans, especially women, formed and joined reform societies. Inspired by the message of the Second Great Awakening (a religious movement that emphasized man's potential and forgiveness of sin) and the Transcendentalist message of man's innate goodness, reformers joined together in organizations aimed at improving life in America. These groups attacked what they perceived as the various wrongs in their society, including the lack of free public school education for both boys and girls, the inhumane treatment of mentally ill patients and criminals, the evil of slavery, the widespread use of alcohol, and the "rights and wrongs" of American women's legal position. The Seneca Falls Convention is a part of this larger period of social reform movements, a time when concern about the rights of various groups percolated to the surface.

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