ELIZABETH CADY STANTON, “THE SOLITUDE OF SELF”: SPEECH TO THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE (18 FEBRUARY 1892)
- Stanton was 76 years old when she delivered the “Solitude of Self.” How do you think her age might have affected her credibility as a women’s rights activist? How do you think her reputation as a pioneer of the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 affected her credibility?
- Throughout her career, and especially toward the end of her life, Stanton argued that young women needed positive role models and that they should remember their “foremothers.” How important are role models in your life? Is it important, as women, to remember our “foremothers”? Who would you consider to be your foremother and why?
- Throughout her career, Stanton defined feminism in many different ways. How would you define feminism today? What do contemporary feminist activists advocate? Would you call yourself a feminist? Why or why not?
- Would Stanton’s depiction of “utter aloneness” in the “Solitude of Self” resonate with, or even make sense to, a contemporary audience? Do you have a clear sense of what she meant by that? Why or why not?
- In the “Pleasures of Age,” Stanton discussed many advantages of growing older. In our youth-obsessed culture, do you think that any of her ideas have relevance for the modern woman? What are the “pleasures of age” for the modern woman, and are they different from those discussed by Stanton?
- The “Solitude of Self” was delivered to two very different audiences: the House Judiciary Committee and a women’s rights convention. Which audience do you think would have reacted most positively to the speech? Why? What are some of the pitfalls of delivering the same speech to different audiences?
- Read Stanton’s first speech delivered at Seneca Falls in 1848, available at: http://voicesofdemocracy.umd.edu/stanton-address-on-womans-rights-speech-text/. How is the speech different from the “Solitude of Self”? You may want to consider style, tone, imagery, and purpose, credibility, and audience.
- Today many scholars consider Stanton to be an agitator of the suffrage movement, as she often pushed the movement behind conventions of the day. Choose another social movement (either contemporary or historical) and find a radical social movement leader. What makes that person’s ideas radical? Do all social movements need a radical fringe? Why or why not?
- Find a speech by another famous nineteenth-century suffragist. Some examples to choose from are Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Coffin Mott, Sojourner Truth, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Anna Howard Shaw. How are the ideas articulated similar or different from Stanton’s “Solitude of Self.” Is there any evidence that the activist you chose supported Stanton’s beliefs?
- Some scholars interpret Stanton’s “The Solitude of Self” as adopting the philosophy of “existentialism.” Research “existentialism” and include a definition and what you consider to be the most important elements of existentialism. Find three examples from Stanton’s speech that would fit into that school of philosophical thought.
- At the end of her life, Stanton wrote a very controversial biblical critique entitled, The Woman’s Bible. Research Stanton’s Bible and discuss why it was so controversial in its day. Would it be considered controversial by the standards of contemporary theologians?
- What are the types of issues that contemporary feminists are advocating today? How do those issues differ from the nineteenth century? Are any of the issues the same?
- Find a speech by a contemporary feminist activist. Research the activist’s background and ethos. What specific issues does the activist support? If Stanton were alive today, do you think she would support those ideas? Why or why not?
- Research the Women’s Studies department at your university. What types of classes are offered? What types of issues do the courses cover? Would you ever consider taking a women’s studies course? Why or why not?
- One of the issues Stanton was concerned about was women’s access to higher education. Research your university. When did your school first begin admitting women? How many women are enrolled in your school compared to men? Think about your major. Are there primarily males or females enrolled in your major? Are there other majors on campus that have mostly female or mostly male students? What about graduate education? Are women going to graduate school more frequently or less frequently than men? What fields do women typically choose in graduate school?
Last updated May 17, 2016