One of the things I enjoy most about the study of history is learning the story behind the common knowledge we have of historical people and events. Once you start digging deeper, there is always much to the story than you first assumed. There is treasure trove of information behing the “history” that we take for granted. I love it every time I can say “I didn’t know that!”
A couple of months ago, I spent a morning visiting the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls to talk with the rangers about planning a teacher field trip. In the process I learned more about the Women’s Rights Convention that was held in Seneca Falls, NY on July 19-20, 1848, the reason this particular National Park exists.
One of the movers and shakers of the Convention and of the women’s rights movement in the 19th century was Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I had always seen her pictured as the white-haired, rather ornately dressed matron you see in this portrait, which never seemed to fit with my conception of a passionate champion of equal rights for women. During my visit to Seneca Falls, I learned that this photo was taken around 1880, more than 30 years after Stanton’s involvement with the Seneca Falls Convention. She was still actively involved in campaigning for equal rights, but who was she in 1848 when she organized the Convention and wrote the Declaration Sentiments?
In 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a 33 year old mother of three boys who, along with Lucretia Mott, became the driving force behind the Seneca Falls Convention. Here is the iron-willed woman who married against her family’s wishes and left the word “obey” out of her marriage vows. Here is a whole different image of Stanton: young, active, and strong. She went on to have four more children while continuing her work to obtain suffrage rights for women. I know that there is still much more that I can learn about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but seeing this picture was an “I didn’t know that!” moment for me. It made my day and added to my understanding of this particular bit of history. I hope you are lucky enough to have some “I didn’t know that!” experiences this month.