There are few lives great enough to be conscientiously reviewed before they are snuffed out. Either their virtues are so heroic that admiration deteriorates into adulation, or their faults are so great that condemnation becomes abuse. Each extreme is unjust toward its object. That life best lends itself to scrutiny and judgment which has been lived, not for self but for humanity; which has regarded the benefit of the human race rather than the exploiting of an individual; which has been devoted to principles, ideas, and ideals, rather than to creeds, forms, and dogmas; which has been generous, beneficent, and sympathetic, and which has had not ambition but aspiration for its motive.
Such a life has been that of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and in the serene aftermath of this well-balanced and dignified career it is fitting that her record maybe placed before the country where her life and life-labors have resulted in infinite advantage not only to her own sex, but to the opposite as well, for the advancement of one is inevitably bound up with that of the other. In a realization of this great fact has always lain a large part of the secret of her power over the minds of others, and of the respect which has always been paid her; for apart from a finely disciplined and thoroughly cultivated mind she has had those warmer and broader sympathies of the soul and heart which have brought her into intimate touch with humanity, and made her the friend of the people and the prophet of the future.
Mrs. Stanton has naturally been identified with the woman suffrage movement all her life, yet nothing but the most narrow and imperfect view of her life would class her as a suffragist alone. She herself says that she has never considered the ballot for women as more than merely one step to be taken in the full round necessary for development, nor does she really believe in anything save an educational qualification for both sexes. She has stood for much more than this; she spoke for the slaves when Whittier was writing poems for his brothers in shackles, and when John Hutchinson was singing his wonderful songs; when Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips were arousing the country with their oratory; when Lucy Stone, sweetest and most benignant of all the leaders of woman suffrage in the United States, was lifting up her voice, and when Harriet Beecher Stowe was writing “Uncle Tom’s Cabin. ”
Then, as soon as the first barriers were down, and the memorable convention of 1848 had marked an epoch never to be forgotten, she stood for the cause of the higher education of woman; and Vassar, Oberlin, the Emma Willard Seminary, Wellesley, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, and all the coeducational system of the great colleges and universities have owed something to her. And as in education so in other things; every woman who to-day is able to accomplish anything in law, medicine, theology, journalism, art, science, or the business world, is that much indebted to this brainy and courageous woman, who has all her life dared to lead where others dared to follow.
By Mary C. Francis
Collection: Godey’s Lady’s Book
Publication: Godey’s Lady’s Book
Date: July, 1896
Title: Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Location: Philadelphia, PA