“The Rights of Woman” [Profound Influence on the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments] within The New World, Vol. II, No. 19, May 8, 1841].
E.P. Hurlbut’s essay influenced Elizabeth Cady Stanton
New York attorney and legal reformer E.P. Hurlbut’s article “The Rights of Woman” appeared in the May 8, 1841 issue of The New World newspaper. Hurlbut’s article on the reform of marriage laws and married women’s rights had a profound influence on women’s right’s pioneer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton was the principal author of the Declaration of Sentiments adopted at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, seven years after Hurlbut’s essay.
Hurlbut’s article, “The Rights of Woman,” was later published in his work Essays on Human Rights, and Their Political Guarantees (1845). His essay was first delivered as a speech in early 1841 at the Mechanics Institute of the City of New York, the city’s oldest technical school, and subsequently published in The New World newspaper.
Scholar Ann D. Gordon, editor of The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, writes that Hurlbut’s “...criticism included a scathing portrait of male domination that is echoed in the Declaration of Sentiments. ... In Hurlbut’s chapter on ‘The Rights of Woman,’ he described woman’s civil death… Her property is conferred on her husband because ‘everybody knows that the dead cannot keep their property—and the wife is legally dead.’ The authors of the Declaration followed Hurlbut in all their examples.” (emphasis ours)¹
Here, in ten full newspaper columns, Hurlbut’s essay develops his conception of the rights of women. His lawyerly arguments derive from the legal principles of Sir William Blackstone and the the common law and, interestingly, from the tenets of phrenology and physiology. He writes:
Those laws, then, which in the least detract from woman’s intellectual freedom or moral responsibility, or restrain the harmonious activity of her faculties after marriage, outrage her rights. Her happiness still depends upon the free exercise of her natural powers. Her restraints must be those of her own enlightened nature. The woman and the wife must remain one and the same. She must be deemed capable of moral and legal consent; capable of judging and of acting; of willing and refusing. Her rights must be acknowledged in her wrongs redressed. (column )
Later, discussing pending legislation in the State of Missouri (Jan. 1841), Hurlbut declares: “Let us carry the principle of equality into the married state, and allow the wife to know and feel that she is truly the partner and equal of her husband.” (column ).
Winchester’s The New World was only published between 1839 to 1845.
Description: “The Rights of Woman” [Profound Influence on the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments] within The New World, Vol. II, No. 19, May 8, 1841].
New York: J. Winchester, Publisher, Saturday, May, 8, 1841. pp. Newspaper. 15¼ x 10½ inches. Removed. Illustrated masthead; printed in three columns. First and final leaves separated; otherwise, very good.
Note. 1. Gordon, ed., The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Volume I In the School of Anti-Slavery, 1840 to 1866 (Rutgers, 1997, 2001), p86.