1848 Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls and Rochester

The first convention in the country called exclusively to discuss the need for women’s rights was held in Seneca Falls on July 19–20, 1848. Lucretia Coffin Mott joined her sister, Martha Coffin Wright and Quaker friends Mary Ann M'Clintock and Jane Hunt, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton for tea on July 9 at the home of Jane Hunt in nearby Waterloo. The women decided to hold a women's rights convention while Mott was visiting. Their announcement, calling for a discussion of the “social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman," appeared two days later in the Seneca County Courier and was reprinted in other area papers, including Frederick Douglass's North Star.

The two-day convention resulted in the adoption of two documents, the Declaration of Sentiments and an accompanying list of resolutions.  Drafted by the Quaker women and Stanton, the documents were discussed and modified by the convention before being adopted.  The most contentious resolution was women’s right to vote. Frederick Douglass, the only African-American present, argued so convincingly for its inclusion that the suffrage resolution was adopted. The convention adjourned to meet again in Rochester two weeks later. This culmination of all the women’s previous work launched the organized women’s rights movement and led to other local conventions and yearly national women’s rights conventions beginning in 1850.

Report of the Woman's Rights Convention, Held at Seneca Falls, N.Y., July 19th and 20th, 1848. This is the "original" tract produced after the Convention in the North Star Printing Office owned by Frederick Douglass, in Rochester, New York. The tract includes minutes from the Seneca Falls Convention by Mary Ann M'Clintock and the Declaration of Sentiments. It was reprinted several times and circulated as a sales item at local and national women's rights conventions. The original draft of the declaration and minutes from the meeting were lost soon after the convention. Courtesy of the Seneca Falls Historical Society.

Full text available at New York Heritage Digital Collections.

First Convention Ever Called to Discuss the Civil and Political Rights of Women, Seneca Falls, New York, July 19, 20, 1848. This pamphlet reprints the Call, first published July 14, 1848 in the Seneca County Courier, the declaration of rights, resolutions, and excerpts from Elizabeth Cady Stanton's speeches, July 19 and July 20, 1848. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Declaration of Sentiments Table, 1848. Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted the Declaration of Sentiments on this table at the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls. While the original draft of the Declaration of Sentiments has been lost to time, the tea table was kept by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and later Susan B. Anthony, and eventually donated to the Smithsonian in 1919, less than a month after the passage of the 19th Amendment. Courtesy of National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center via Smithsonian Institution.

Portrait Lucretia Coffin Mott, 1842. The Seneca Falls Convention was planned during a visit by Mott, who was famous for her oratorical ability in an era where women were often not allowed to speak in public. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.