I grew up in New York State, where, unsurprisingly, schools teach a lot of New York history. As far back as I can remember, I’ve known about the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848—the first women’s rights convention—which launched the 70-year fight that eventually led to women’s right to vote.
In hindsight, I was downright obsessed with the topic. I read books about the suffragette movement and biographies of the two organizers, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. I even dressed up as Mott for a book report in the fourth grade (and, coincidentally, I ended up attending Swarthmore, a college she had helped found).
But looking back—it’s no wonder. These women were incredible role models, who led, spoke, persevered, and succeeded. They used the power they did have—the power of word and voice, the power of the press and of relationships and organizing—to achieve great things. The women who organized the Seneca Falls convention are pretty incredible models for social change organizing today. They did simple, smart, thoughtful things (all without any social media, no less), which paid off in powerful ways.
Inspired by their work, here’s your five-point Seneca Falls organizing plan:
1) Build a team. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott met at the Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840, where they weren’t allowed to fully participate because the convention excluded women. That slight led them to vow to fight for women’s rights, and they did so, together, for decades.
2) Have a plan. In a Declaration of Sentiments ratified at the convention, they laid out 18 grievances and 11 resolutions for the rights of women, including the right to vote (#9 on their list). This document became the movement’s organizing template, and set their outreach agenda for decades.
3) Create a network. Resolution #9 was the only one that didn’t pass on the first vote. It took a fiery speech from Frederick Douglass, whom the organizers had met through their anti-slavery work, to get it passed by the attendees.
4) Seize the moment. They planned the Seneca Falls Convention in less than a week, spurred by a visit Mott made to her sister, who lived near Cady Stanton.
And lastly, and a point particularly close to our hearts here at Hattaway:
5) Change the narrative. When news coverage of the event was widespread and highly critical, Cady Stanton personally replied to every article, using it as a chance to present her side of the story. As she said at the time about the coverage, “It will start women thinking, and men too; and when men and women think about a new question, the first step in progress is taken.”
Carrie Schum Carrie is currently Executive Vice President of Hattaway and brings strategic insight to everything she does. She is always looking for the "why" behind how people think and act, then connecting that knowledge with breakthrough execution that changes perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors. A native New Yorker, Carrie is a proud Swarthmore College alumna & now resides in Virginia with her husband and two children. Carrie is always up for a discussion of books, style, or baking, and is a fervent (some say fanatical) follower of the U.S. Women's National Soccer team.