If you’ve never read the full text of “The Declaration of Sentiments,” I highly encourage you to do so.
Written in July 1848 as part of the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, the Declaration of Sentiments holds some of the most powerful words I’ve ever read. Elizabeth Cady Stanton lists many of the grievances committed against women in the United States:
- Withholding the right to vote
- Holding her accountable to a law she did not agree to
- Withholding rights given to even the most despicable men
- Taking away her voice
- Giving everything she owns to her husband
- Withholding the right to earn money
- Giving such power to her husband that he has ultimate authority over her
- Disallowing her to file for divorce
- In the event of divorce, disregarding her wishes or the children’s best interests
- Taxing her to support a government that doesn’t support her
- Withholding from her most forms of employment, and especially those of a highly regarded nature
- Refusing her access to higher education
- Refusing to acknowledge and support her spiritual giftings in the Church
- Upholding a double standard against her
- Assuming the ability to decide what her dreams, abilities, and accomplishments might be
- “He has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.”
That last is the most powerful one to me.
It’s heartening, and it’s sad, to look at this list.
I see how far we’ve come, and I’m so glad. But I see many women who are still so hopeless, so dejected, so resigned to allowing others to define their lives. I see women who allow a magazine or a TV show or a celebrity to tell her she’s not good enough. I see women who compete with each other, for unclear reasons. I see women who think their gifts are not good enough for the God who created them.
Believe it or not, I’ve actually had people say to me, “Why do you care so much about women? What’s the big deal? You have the right to vote…” I would laugh if it weren’t so common to meet people with this opinion. As if gaining the right to vote was the only problem women faced—and as if we’ve actually achieved equal political representation. Clearly, the work is not done.
The women of the Seneca Falls Convention are my heroines.
They fought boldly for what they knew was right. But the work is not done. We still need to fight for the girls being aborted in China and India. We still need to fight for the victims of sexual violence in war zones. We still need to fight for the victims of rape and domestic abuse. We still need to fight for the girls who are picked on and bullied. We still need to fight for the girls who aren’t allowed an education. We still need to fight for the girls who are told, “Well, you shouldn’t have worn that skirt.”
We still need to fight for the women who are told, “God doesn’t want you to lead.”
It’s important to have a Declaration of Sentiments, to reflect on what exactly the grievances against you are. It’s important for those who oppress to understand where they’ve gone wrong. They won’t know unless we tell them. Many wonderful people are already speaking out against the injustices felt by women all over the world, and at the Junia Project we join them.
This is part of the mission of the Junia Project: to let women know that they are deeply loved by God, that they are equal participants in His Kingdom, and that they are meant to live to the fullest of their abilities.
We want to inspire others to love and support women by revealing the discrimination that many women face.
Maybe you’re new to this conversation.
Maybe you’re not sure how you feel about this. Maybe you’ve been sheltered from much of the harm. That’s ok; you are welcome here. We encourage you to pray with us, learn with us, and walk with us as we strive for equality among all of God’s people.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
What do you think? Which grievances listed above stand out to you? Do you agree with the idea that it is important to have a declaration – why or why not? How do the words of Jesus, quoted at the end of this post, inform your ideas of authority in the Church?
Originally posted on One Little Library. Used with permission.