[Philadelphia]: [National Woman Suffrage Association], 1876. First edition. 4 pages. 11 x 8.5”. Chipping at edges, minor cracking along folds, split into two pieces along central fold. Signed in type by women’s rights trailblazers Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Belva Lockwood and twenty additional suffrage leaders.
The Declaration exists in two nearly identical forms, printed under variant titles that are exceptionally rare in either form. This version, bearing the now famed title Declaration of Rights of Women of the United States is the only known copy to have come onto the public market according to auction records, with the remaining 11 examples held at research institutions. The only known surviving copy of the variant Declaration and Protest of the Women of the United States is held at the Library of Congress. While priority between the titles is unknown, the Library of Congress copy’s omission of the second postscript and its four additional printed signatures suggest that it is the later of the two.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony’s historic partnership began almost two decades prior to the Declaration, upon Stanton’s urging that Anthony focus her activist efforts on women’s property and citizenship rights. Together, they founded the National Woman Suffrage Association [NWSA], the most influential coalition promoting women’s equality after the Civil War. Operating under the motto “Men, Their Rights and Nothing More – Women, Their Rights and Nothing Less,” the NWSA spearheaded protests, petitions, and lobbying efforts to gain equal citizenship for American women. The 1876 Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia provided a critical opportunity to highlight enduring inequalities between the sexes; and the Centennial committee’s refusal to allow their presentation of the Declaration of Rights of Women at Independence Hall on July 4th fueled their determination. “Determined to have the final word, Anthony and four cohorts managed to obtain, at the last moment, passes for admission to the ceremony. At the conclusion of the reading of the Declaration of Independence, Anthony rose from her seat…climbed onto the stage, and presented to a bewildered presiding officer…the [Declaration of Rights of Woman]. The document was prepared and signed especially for the occasion by the most prominent advocates of woman’s enfranchisement. After scattering hundreds of printed copies of the address throughout a curious crowd of onlookers, the women retreated from the hall. Outside…Anthony, before an enthusiastic crowd of listeners, read the famous Woman’s Declaration” (Cordato).
The women’s Declaration was unequivocal and powerful: “Now, at the close of a hundred years, as the hour hand of the great clock that marks the centuries points to 1876, we declare our faith in the principles of self government; our full equality with man in natural rights…and we deny the dogma of the centuries, incorporated in the codes of all nations—that woman was made for man… We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters, forever.”
A pivotal founding document in the history of women’s rights. (Item #3990)