Equality and Marriage

Woman's Rights Petition to the New York Legislature, 1854

  1. 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.
  2. 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

  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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 republic; therefore

  14. 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.