Elizabeth Cady Stanton's 1854 "Address to the Legislature of New York" and the Paradox of Social Reform Rhetoric Page: 1
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Cady Stanton and the Paradox of Social Reform 1
Elizabeth Cady Stanton's 1854 'Address to the Legislature of New York' and the Paradox of
Social Reform Rhetoric
[P]ut identification and division ambiguously together, so that you cannot know for certain just
where one ends and the other begins, and you have the characteristic invitation to rhetoric.
As historians have studied the rhetoric of 19th Century social reformers, Elizabeth Cady
Stanton has been the subject of much scholarly attention.1 Although somewhat overlooked in
many early histories of women's rights movements (DuBois and Stanton 257), Cady Stanton was
a prolific and influential writer and speaker in America for more than half of the 19th Century,
and her legacy as a "preeminent advocate of women's legal and political rights" (Gordon xvii)
and the "[Woman] movement's philosopher and chief publicist" (Campbell 2: 42) has been
significantly recovered by feminist historians and historians of rhetoric.2 Cady Stanton is widely
credited with paving the way for future generations of women to engage in public debates
regarding women's place in society.3
In 1848, Cady Stanton organized the Seneca Falls Convention with Lucretia Mott, and
over the next several years built a national reputation as a women's rights reformer and
abolitionist by publishing extensively in newspapers and women's rights periodicals. In 1854, in
conjunction with the New York Women's Rights Convention, Cady Stanton wrote and delivered
her first landmark speech, the "Address to the Legislature of New York" (hereafter "Address").4
Cady Stanton considered the "Address" one of her finest speeches (Banner 79), and it burnished
her reputation as a radical social reformer. In the speech, Cady Stanton called on legislators to
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Skinnell, Ryan. Elizabeth Cady Stanton's 1854 "Address to the Legislature of New York" and the Paradox of Social Reform Rhetoric, article, 2010; [New York, New York]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc146585/m1/1/: accessed March 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Arts and Sciences.