The Summer of Our Discontent

On August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed, 72 years after a handful of brave and determined women began the battle to give women in the United States the right to vote. That it took 144 years from the time the country was founded for this right to be granted is shameful.


It was a hot day in July 1848. They gathered in Seneca Falls, NY, a small town on the edge of Van Cleef Lake. But it was not a picnic that drew them together on that day so many years ago.  It was discontent.


Jane Hunt
Photograph from A History of Waterloo, John Becker.

Jane Hunt was married to the richest man in Seneca County. He referred to himself as a farmer, but in reality he was an active land speculator and industrialist. Jane and her family lived in a stately home on Main Street in Waterloo, NY, enjoying all the comforts afforded them by their financial status. Jane should have been content, but something was wrong. She wasn’t sure she could articulate it, but her comfortable life chafed at her sensibilities.

A member of the Quaker faith, Jane took comfort from the friends she worshipped with at monthly Meeting. She was especially close to Mary Ann M’Clintock, a relative by marriage and a respected leader of the church. They strongly believed in community, and the women often met to discuss of how they could put that belief into action. As Jane’s husband Richard often reminded her, faith without works brought few results.

They learned that Lucretia Mott, a well-know minister and reformer from Philadelphia, was visiting family nearby and decided to invite her to come and meet with them. Jane offered her front parlor for the meeting. Lucretia brought her sister Martha, and Jane invited Elizabeth, a friend who was not a Quaker, but just as committed to social reform as the others.

Over tea and cookies, the women talked. Discussing their lives, as women do, they soon realized that they all shared the same discontent. And if they did, what of other women? Elizabeth had been speaking of her feelings to anyone who would listen for years, and among these Quaker women, she found a sympathetic ear. She also found compatriots who were willing to put their words into action.

That afternoon, the seed of change was sown.

Lucretia wanted very much to be a part of whatever action they took, but she didn’t have much time before she must return to Philadelphia and her responsibilities there. The women decided to hold a public meeting where other women could be heard, and they drafted a notice that the meeting would be held the following week at the Wesleyan Church. Elizabeth volunteered to deliver it to the newspaper office on her way home, and the notice was published two days later. In the days before the meeting, a second meeting was held to draft a document for discussion. Elizabeth then took the document home and edited it, and created the first draft of what would be known as The Declaration of Sentiments. Taking her cues from the Declaration of Independence, she began, “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary…”

On July 19 and 20, the women met again, this time joined by more than 300 others, including a handful of men and children. On the first day, the women discussed the Declaration and the absence of women’s rights in the United States. On the second day, the men joined the discussion, and at the end of the day, a vote was taken to ratify the Declaration.

American Treasures Collection
Library of Congress

Sadly, at the end of that day, nothing much changed. It was at the end of over 26,000 additional days that the seed planted in Seneca Falls, NY on that hot day in July 1848 grew to bear fruit.  But Jane Hunt, Mary Ann M’Clintock, Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright and Elizabeth Cady Stanton never doubted.

The five women (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martha Wright, Lucretia Mott, 
Jane Hunt, Mary Ann McClintock) 
who issued the call for the Convention. 
Photographs from A History of Waterloo, John Becker.


To learn more, read the Report of the Women’s Rights Convention and the Declaration of Sentiments.


  1. smiles. an important step in a journeywe continue to take...

  2. Proof that a small group of women-friends can make one big gi-normous difference in the world... even if it takes thousands of days for the seed to germinate and the results to come to fruition.

  3. Great post, Patti. Kudos to each and every one of those women.

  4. Thank you for reading. I am so impressed with these women. I cannot imagine the courage and determination they must have had. But you are right; we aren't "there" yet.

  5. http://thursdaypoetsrallypoetry.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/the-celebrate-poet-of-june-award-plus-poetry-community-award/

    award notice,
    3 of them!

  6. nice...it was a great read the second time around as well...and it always takes a spark and those women provided it..no matter how long it took to catch a fire...smiles. happy tt!

  7. Well researched and written. There was a wonderful show about Suffrage on PBS-TV a few years ago. It really went into detail and I thought how interesting it would be to read a bio of Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Susan B. Anthony.

  8. i am so grateful for what they started and so depressed by what we haven't.

    i'm still bugged that equal pay for equal work isn't a reality.

  9. :) Women RawR! lol Nice read, and nice way to approach the theme.

  10. Fantastic! In Canada, it wasnt until 1929 that women were even declared "persons". Sigh. God knows what we were before that, but am sure it involved cackling!


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