The Declaration of Sentiments was a powerful statement that spoke to women’s power in a time when according to modern eyes, they had none. The document pulls heavily from the bombastic language of Thomas Jefferson who poetically penned the original document. It recycles such phrases “inalienable right” “When, in the course of human events” and “ deriving their powers from the consent of the governed” and reapplies them to women. It accuses ‘he’ the patriarchal society of the day, of exploiting women. The denial of these economic, legal and societal ramifications would today seem ignorant and closed-minded to even the most conservative thinker today.
These were utterly radical notions in their day. So much so that when a legal convention of liberal reformers came together to ratify the Declaration of Sentiments, only a third of the attendees signed. Even amongst abolitionists and men devoted to the concept of populism, these concepts were utterly new. They did combine with older traditions of egalitarianism. The education these women received would not have exposed them too.
This was an era between Republican Motherhood and the Suffragettes. It existed between the idealism of the American Revolution and the cynicism of the Civil War. As the nation did its best to steer a path between two extremes, these women and their opening of a third offensive did nothing to help. What could have torn a nation asunder instead helped to guide it into a gentler era. Even if that took another 70 years to accomplish, it was an important step in the right direction.
Kerber, Linda, et.al. Women’s America. 8th edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.