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BOOK DISCUSSION GUIDE

Title: Eighty Years and More: Reminiscences, 1815-1897
Author: Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Summary: Elizabeth Cady Stanton is one of the most important political figures of 19th Century America, and yet today her work on behalf of women’s rights is little known. Her political activism began in the abolition movement. Upon attending the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, where women were denied an active role, she and other women began to discuss women’s role in society. In 1848 Stanton, with other women, organized the first women’s rights convention, where the American suffrage movement was launched as well as several other legal and social causes that affected women’s lives. In 1851 she began a life-long collaboration with Susan B. Anthony; they became the voice and force behind the burgeoning women’s movement until their deaths.

Stanton’s autobiography is in fact a narrative that situates her story in that of the burgeoning American society. While the American Revolution won political freedom for white men, it did not free women from the patriarchal social structure that limited them. Stanton’s crusade for women’s rights is part of the American continuum of struggle for self-reliance and the development of the individual who rejects authority. Stanton’s book is a collection of stories and anecdotes meant to appease some of her critics; in fact she was a controversial figure whose radical ideas and strong convictions helped maintain political agitation that resulted in laws being re-written and eventually the enfranchisement of women.

Questions:
1. What themes emerge in Eighty Years and More?

2. What do you imagine made Stanton a controversial figure both to the public and within the women’s movement?

3. What issues that Stanton writes about in her autobiography are still unresolved today?

4. How would you describe Stanton’s personality?

5. What influenced her to take up women’s causes?

6. In what ways did Stanton conform, and in ways did she refuse to conform?

7. What was your reaction to Stanton’s childrearing practices?

8. How important was collaboration in Stanton’s life?

9. Did you find any ironies in Stanton’s stories of her life?

10. Why did Stanton (and Anthony) travel so extensively in the West?

11. Why do you think she does not mention her husband after the first few years of her marriage?

12. In the second half of the autobiography she talks very little about her domestic life as a wife and mother. Why do you think this is? For example, she only mentions that one of her children has died and does not mention her husband’s death.

13. Who do you think was the intended audience of Stanton’s autobiography?

14. What did you enjoy about this autobiography; what did you not like?

Related Information:
Not For Ourselves Alone - video

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, correspondence, writings, speeches

About.Com - Woman's History

National Woman's History Museum

Elizabeth Cady Stanton on RootsWeb - go to bottom for genealogical information

Questions and related information provided by Elaine Handley.

This discussion guide made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency. Sponsored by the Mohawk Valley Library System and participating member libraries.

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