Women's Rights, Women's Suffrage, Equity, Republican Motherhood, Property Rights
The purpose of this thesis is to examine the origins of the first women's rights convention held at Seneca Falls, NY during the summer of 1848. Taxation without representation was one of the foundations that the Continental Congress used as a basis for Independence from England. But when the revolution ended and the Republic was formed, the United States adopted many English laws and traditions regarding the status of women. Women, who were citizens or could be naturalized, were left civically invisible by the code of laws (coverture) once they married. They were not able to own property, form contracts, sue or be sued. In essence, they were "covered" by their husbands under coverture. Single women who owned property or inherited property were subject to taxation, though they had no voice in the elective franchise. Therefore, women, both married and single, who were counted for legislative purposes, were given no voice in choosing their government representatives. I conclude that there were three bases for women's rights: equity, Republican Motherhood, and women's organizations. The legal concept of equity, the domestic ideology of Republican Motherhood combined with the social model of women's organizations formed the earliest foundation of what would become the first feminist movement, leading directly to the Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls in 1848. Through an analysis of the changes in women's property ownership to the enhancement of the female domestic role in the early nineteenth century, women challenged their place in the public sphere. The sisterhood that was created as a result of the new domestic ideology and improved female education led to the creation of organizations to improve women's place in society. Through an almost fifty year evolution, the earliest women's volunteer organizations became the mid-nineteenth century reform organizations, leading to a campaign for woman's suffrage.
Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Lengyel, Deborah Jean, "The Origins Of The First Women S Rights Convention: From Property Rights And Republican Motherhood To Organization And Reform, 1776-1848" (2007). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 3239.