Women’s Rights National Historical Park Interpretive Theme Matrix

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Women’s Rights National Historical Park

Interpretive Theme Matrix

The 1848 National Women’s Rights Convention

(The Convention—The Event)

Interpretive Theme


Topics and Stories

Theme #1

The Declaration of Sentiments was ratified at the first Women’s Rights Convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York and marked the formal beginning and validation of the women’s rights movement in the United States.

The Convention

  • Describe why the first Women’s Rights Convention, held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York is considered a pivotal event in world history. Illustrate how the outcomes from the convention affected women’s and men’s roles in politics, society, economics, in the US and the world.

  • Illustrate how the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention had a revolutionary purpose and how its participants worked toward equal rights for all, regardless of sex.

  • Describe the significance of the convention as the formal beginning of the women’s rights movement as the first time a group publicly talked about and validated the need for women’s rights.

  • Describe how the movement to hold a convention took shape. Describe why a convention became the vehicle for the movement. Explore how a convention was a familiar format and comfortable choice and one in which the women had experience and confidence in participating in the public arena; how it was a common 19th-century practice to bring people together and to affect change.

  • Describe the methods the reformers used to create and shape regional, national and international dialogue in 1848. Compare and contrast the relative success of the methods chosen.

  • Describe the strategic choice to include men at the convention (to gain wider acceptance, publicity, and credibility among other reasons) and what this decision was expected to accomplish. Evaluate the success of this action.

  • Compare and contrast 19th-century attitudes and stereotypes of women’s proper place, womanhood, and the cult of domesticity with the agenda discussed at the convention.

  • Outline the series of events that led to the convention—including the meeting at the Hunt House, the drafting of the Declaration of Sentiments, calling the Convention, and Stanton’s dissatisfaction with women’s roles.

  • Describe how Elizabeth Cady Stanton became the advocate for voting rights at the Convention seconded by Douglass.

  • Describe how the organizers strategically opened the public sphere of political action to include women at a convention that they organized.

The Document/The Declaration of Sentiments

  • Discuss the impact of the Declaration of Sentiments as the first formal document declaring support for women’s rights.

  • Illustrate how the Declaration of Sentiments draws upon the philosophy and the rhetoric of the Declaration of Independence, how it asserted that equality and justice should be extended to all people without regard to sex, and how it lists goals for political equality, economic opportunity, and social reform.

  • Describe the Declaration of Sentiments as actionable goals relating to political equality, economic opportunity, and social reform.

  • Explore the basis for the grievances listed in the Declaration of Sentiments. Evaluate whether the grievances were valid. Explore if any of the grievances resonate in the 21st century.

  • Describe that 100 people signed the Declaration of Sentiments; who are they; why did they feel confident about signing. Describe the people who did not attend and why – those who felt threatened or opposed or did not know about it.

  • Declaration of Sentiments

  • Convention as a vehicle for bringing people together

  • Various communications options, for example: oration and public dialogue

  • Wesleyan Chapel

  • Hunt House

  • M’Clintock House

  • Stanton House

  • People:

- Stanton

- Anthony

- M’Clintocks

- Hunts

- Motts

- Lucretia Mott

- The “Five Organizers”

- Husbands of Five organizers

-Frederick Douglass

- 100 Signers

  • History of Woman Suffrage account of the convention

  • Subsequent conventions

Resolved, that woman is man’s equal, was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such.” – The Declaration of Sentiments, 1848

Passionate Reformers

(The people, relationships, and networks of the early women’s rights movement)

Interpretive Theme


Topics and Stories

Theme #2

The personal passion and dynamic relationships among American mid-19th-century reformers led to the first Women's Rights Convention in history and inspired others to take action to secure rights for women.

  • Explain the complex, interconnected web of personalities, networks, and interrelationships between the 19th-century women’s rights reformers.

  • Explain the roles of various people of the women’s rights movement including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, the M’Clintocks, the Hunts, the Motts and others. Explain how Elizabeth Cady Stanton became a national leader of the Women’s Rights Movement.

  • Describe what was at stake for participants of the convention and for women, men, families, and social institutions as a result.

  • Describe how each person involved in the convention continued to change and evolve her/his beliefs over time including some not-so-celebratory aspects of their individual and collective beliefs and behavior. Explore key issues where convention organizers and participants parted ways in thinking about women’s rights and approaches to affect change.

  • Trace the roots of the activism and the social and political awakening of leaders of the women’s rights movement. Describe the influence that religion, religious affiliation and activism had on principals involved in the women’s rights movement.

  • Explain that the nation’s first Women’s Rights Convention was the work of a small network of women who developed the idea and wrote the call for the convention at the Hunt House in Waterloo, New York. Describe how they knew each other and how they came to be activists.

  • Describe how the organizers interacted, used their homes, met, had tea, debated ideas to bring together like-minded people to establish a grassroots movement.

  • Describe the various networks formed by the organizers and the different methods that made these networks effective

  • Discuss issues of white privilege and how it affected organizers and supporters of the convention (over time). Discuss issues of class as they relate to the women’s rights movement.

  • Identify and describe the important contributions of the famous and not so famous women and men involved in the 19th-century reform and women’s rights movements.

  • Describe personality or character attributes held by central figures in the story of women’s rights that correspond with public activism and social justice.

  • Illustrate how sites in the park and along the Votes for Women Trail provide glimpses into the lives and experiences of organizers and participants in the 1848 convention.

  • Anti-slavery network

  • Quaker network

  • Overlapping networks religious/family/reform/geographic

  • How the press fueled arguments, connected people with similar ideas, conveyed messages

  • Moral Suasion techniques and model

  • Reformers working together in antislavery, women’s rights, and temperance

  • Mott’s letter to Stanton advising that women’s enfranchisement would make the convention “ridiculous.”

  • Newspaper reports

  • Case studies of organizers/participants

  • Sojourner Truth; abolition; women’s right speeches

  • Susan B Anthony’s voting arrest and trial

  • Stanton Anthony Friendship

  • Women’s Nat’l Loyal League

  • Equal Rights Association

  • Revolution, The Woman’s Journal, The Una, The Lily and other women’s newspapers

  • Dress Reform

  • Life experiences and circumstances of organizers

  • Family life of organizers and others

  • Issues of class

  • Issues of race

  • The Five Organizers and their spouses

  • The 100 who signed the Declaration of Sentiments

  • People who carried forward the ideas from the movement; their subsequent actions. For example: William Lloyd Garrison; Susan B. Anthony; Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Frederick Douglass; Harriet Tubman; Sarah Pugh; Mary Grew; Abby Kelley Foster; Grimke Sisters; Lucy Stone; Matilda Joslyn Gage; Lydia Maria Child; Catherine Beecher; Victoria Woodhull; Amy Post; Harriet Jacobs; Amelia Bloomer; Ernestine Rose; Henry Blackwell; Wendell Phillips; Catharine Paine Blain

  • Descendants of the signers

  • Godey’s Ladies Book

  • Men for women’s rights

  • International antislavery and women’s rights supporters and reformers

  • Wesleyan Chapel, Elizabeth Cady Stanton House, M’Clintock and Hunt Houses

  • Women’s History Trail sites

. . . a spoke in the wheel of reform . . . – Mary M’Clintock

Nexus of Change

(Context —the circumstances, forces, and experiences that brought people to this place and this moment)

Interpretive Theme


Concepts that may be explored within this theme.*

Topics and Stories

Representative topics and stories that could be included within the theme.

Theme #3

Central New York was a geographic nexus for 19th –century grassroots reform movements including women’s rights, abolition, temperance, and labor; movements that led to national and global societal changes affecting women’s and men’s roles in politics, education, work, religion, and the home.

Background for the Movement

  • Describe the national and global context in which the women’s rights movement emerged and was shaped. Describe changing industry, labor, politics, religion, economy, and society in the US that were catalysts and helped to sow the seeds for the women’s rights movement.

  • Describe the legal, social and political rights and roles women held that precipitated the women’s rights movement. Explain what reform promised and how women’s lives were expected to change as a result of proposed reforms.

  • Explain how the women’s rights movement was rooted in other reform movements of the period and how some of these movements continue today. Describe some of the other reform movements and explain how they are connected to the women’s rights movement.

  • Explain the complex interrelationships among the abolition, temperance, women’s rights and other social movements. Illustrate the relationships and networks among the leaders and other of abolition and women’s rights movements; where they agreed, where they departed philosophy. Compare and contrast the goals for these various movements.

  • Describe how early 19th century-activism on behalf of women’s rights fed a growing concern for women’s rights on a broader scale.

  • Describe the active role of women in abolition and other (legal and social) reform efforts of the early 19th century.

  • Describe the various informal meetings, protests, discussions, legislation, legal precedents, and petitions, in the women’s rights movement before the 1848 Seneca Falls convention. Connect how these actions, events, and accomplishments furthered the cause for women’s rights.

  • Describe the views, actions, and impacts of various religious organizations and religious reforms and movements on women’s rights and other reform movements.

  • Describe the role and impact of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and Quakerism in women’s rights, abolition and other social reform movements.

  • Describe how religious convictions and altruistic attitudes (fighting for something bigger than yourself and on behalf of others) affected and fueled the women’s rights movement.

  • Trace the influence of the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution, as well as other legal and moral books and documents that led Elizabeth Cady Stanton to conclude she and others had a right and an obligation to question law and policy. Describe how her principles guided Stanton throughout her life. Trace the evolution of her thinking and principles. Explain the influence these principles had on her family, friends, and colleagues.

  • Describe, compare and contrast the legal status and circumstances of single and married women in early and mid-nineteenth century United States. Explore the role of women’s activism in securing property rights for married women.


  • Describe how the areas surrounding Seneca Falls and Waterloo, New York served as a geographical nexus where proponents of various social reform movements, causes, and factions came together to debate and discuss courses of action for societal change.

  • Show the connections and describe why the geographical locations around the villages of Seneca Falls and Waterloo became the center of the groundswell of religious and reform movements during the first half of the 19th century. Connect this to why these places became the birthplace of women’s rights in the United States.

  • Describe how sites within the Votes for Women History Trail connect and illustrate components of the story for reform and the crusade for women’s rights.

  • Reform movements

  • Abolition

  • Temperance

  • Labor Movements

  • Industrialization

  • Politics

  • Religion

  • Legal vs. social reform movements

  • Influence of class

  • Activism

  • Sites along Women’s History Trail

  • Actions in Europe for women’s rights

  • Waves of social and political revolutions across Europe in 1848

  • Religious reform—break from Calvinist tradition in upstate NY, known as the “burned over” district

  • Geography

  • Transportation

  • Society of Friends and other religious organizations

  • The timeline leading to the convention

  • Married women property laws before 1848

  • New Jersey enfranchisement of women property owners

  • American Anti-Slavery Society

  • William Lloyd Garrison

  • Garrison’s moral suasion model for change

Now in view of this entire disenfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation, in view of unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights . . . – The Declaration of Sentiments, 1848

Still Work to be Done

(The legacy of the early women’s rights movement)

Interpretive Theme


Topics and Stories

Theme #4

Rooted in both the example and the course set by 19th-century reformers in Seneca Falls, New York, the women’s movement evolves and inspires passion and commitment from succeeding generations who continue to fight for the rights of all people.

  • Describe how the Declaration of Sentiments, ratified at the 1848 Convention, can be considered “a document of enduring relevance”. Inquire, explore, compare, and contrast why (or why not) and what was relevant about it then and what is relevant about it now.

  • Describe the significance of suffrage; that a prime outcome of the Convention—recognizing women’s right to vote—was necessary to permit women to directly participate in politics in order to address a range of economic, educational, religious, and social conditions affecting all women. (Voting provided power behind activism.)

  • Explore how the Declaration of Sentiments became the charge to the nascent women’s rights movement in the United States – and set a course for generations of [women’s rights] activists to follow.

  • Debate the fragility of rights for women in the US and around the world.

  • Explain Seneca Falls’ symbolic meaning for women’s empowerment.

  • Provide examples and opportunities to reflect how the women’s rights movement initiated an ongoing effort to fully include women within the culture and politics United States.

  • Provide examples about how the women’s right movement was rooted in other reform movements of the 19th century and how some of these movements continue today. Describe how the women’s rights movement in the United States affected or did not affect women in other countries.

  • Describe the next steps after the Convention; how women of all races were engaged; how it became more than an upper class white women’s issue.

  • Explore how conference organizers and attendees didn’t always agree on a course of action and how they individually shifted their approaches and thoughts about the women’s rights movement. Describe how Stanton became too radical for Anthony creating a rift between the long-time friends and allies in the women’s movement.

  • Trace the work, the leaders, and the legacy of the suffrage and women’s rights movements to new generations. For example: Carrie Chapman Catt in the 1910’s; Alice Paul and her radicalism and the 1920’s; Betty Friedan in the 1960’s and Gloria Steinem in the 1970’s.

  • Share examples and ways that modern people work as grassroots activists—and how one person can make a difference.

  • Describe how and for whom the Elizabeth Cady Stanton house was a base for 14 years after the convention and used for the continued development of the Women’s Rights Movement. Describe the people who stayed there and their roles in the women’s rights movement.

  • The state of women’s rights around the world—historically and today

  • Class struggles within the women’s rights movement

  • Racial disagreements within the women’s rights movement

  • “Completed” grievances in the Declaration of Sentiments, describe progress

  • United Nations and the Declaration of Human Rights

  • Associated organizations such as: League of Women Voters, Women’s Clubs, Girl Scouts, National Organization of Women, American Association of University Women, National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, Sororities (white and African American), churches,

  • 1970’s and the Equal Rights Amendment

  • Wesleyan Chapel

  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton House

  • Modern issues such as: women in combat, gay rights movement, women in politics, issues of pay discrepancy, etc.

  • Stanton

  • Anthony

  • Alice Paul

  • Carrie Chapman Catt

  • Betty Friedan

  • Gloria Steinem

Resolved, that woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits . . . and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her.” – The Declaration of Sentiments, 1848

About the Matrix: The four sections in the matrix: 1) title/title description, 2) theme statement, 3) concepts, and 4) topics/stories allow people with different learning styles and interests to get a broader picture of what may be encompassed within a particular theme in ways that a theme statement cannot do alone. When testing themes the question to answer is not, “What’s missing?” The concepts and topics/stories can only be validated if people see possibilities for information to be included under the concepts.
* About the Concepts: Concepts are written as objectives to align interpretive services and media with park significance. Themes should be relatively timeless; the concepts are designed to be flexible and adapted as new information comes to light. These objectives should be used to guide program and media development eliminating the need to develop new objectives for every interpretive product.
July 2012

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