By The Progressive on July 17, 2008

This weekend marks the 160th anniversary of the first women’s rights convention in history.

The Seneca Falls Convention in New York, convened by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and four feminist friends, met during the hot days of July 19-20, 1848, “to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman.”

It was at this convention that Stanton proposed her shocking resolution for “woman suffrage”—demanding women’s right to vote.

A short, unsigned notice, composed around a tea table, appeared in the July 14, 1848, issue of the Seneca County Courier. The women had only three days to draw up their Declaration of Women’s Rights, and they hit upon the genius of rewording the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal,” they began, with the obvious addition of “and women.”

Instead of King George, they referred to the male sex, which “has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice” and which “allows her in Church, as well as State, but a subordinate position.”

The resolutions at the conference rang out: “It is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise,” one said.

The final resolution, offered by Lucretia Mott, is still radical, still not yet realized: “That the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and untiring efforts of both men and women, for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit and for the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions and commerce.”

The ruins of the Wesleyan Chapel where the gathering met are now the Women’s Rights National Historic Park. The Declaration of Women’s Rights is inscribed in marble.

It is proper that our government commemorates the Seneca Falls convention. Yet Stanton was leery of monuments. She wanted a legacy of action, change and equality now.

The anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention is an appropriate time to take stock.

While women have had the vote since 1920, we still are woefully underrepresented in the halls of power.

And when one of our own, Hillary Rodham Clinton, ran for president, she faced all sorts of sexism.

A Washington Post woman columnist publicly admonished her for showing “cleavage.” Carl Bernstein derided her “thick ankles.”

FOX News' Marc Rudov said: "When Hillary Clinton speaks, men hear, 'take out the garbage.'"

MSNBC's Tucker Carlson said: "When she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs."

New York Times news coverage referred to Clinton’s “cackle,” as did other media.

"Like her or not,” as CBS anchor Katie Couric put it, “one of the great lessons of the campaign is the continued and accepted sexism in American life, particularly in the media.”

The media flayed the early feminists unmercifully. Some things haven’t changed that much in 160 years.

Annie Laurie Gaylor is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., and is editor of the newspaper Freethought Today and the anthology, “Women Without Superstition: No Gods - No Masters.” She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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