In 1848, a small gathering of both women and men formulated a plan. The righteous endeavor called for the fair treatment of half the population of the United States. What we now take for granted was initiated with a document patterned after our Declaration of Independence. It was called the Declaration of Sentiments.
So began a long battle for equal rights. It expressly demanded the right of women to vote. Seventy-two years passed before federal law amended voting rights to include the voice of women. Over time, other mandates of that original movement were met satisfactorily by the law. Of course, more demands of an absolutely fair nature were added to the complaint and requirement of the American woman. But the tone of that first cry for change now clashes with our culture, and the vision of the document which was the foundation of a movement is now clouded.
From Resolutions in the Declaration of Sentiments:
Resolved, that woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her.
Resolved, therefore, that, being invested by the Creator with the same capabilities and same consciousness of responsibility for their exercise, it is demonstrably the right and duty of woman, equally with man, to promote every righteous cause by every righteous means; and especially in regard to the great subjects of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to participate with her brother in teaching them, both in private and in public, by writing and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be used, and in any assemblies proper to be held; and this being a self-evident truth growing out of the divinely implanted principles of human nature, any custom or authority adverse to it, whether modern or wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to be regarded as a self-evident falsehood, and at war with mankind.
What is deemed righteous by society certainly alters over time. No doubt, the women who recently marched to voice their demands consider themselves agents of morality. They require the law maintain their rights, which they feel are now encroached upon by a perceived change to the atmosphere of ethics. The thoughts and ideals of the writers of the Declaration of Sentiments mean little now in the history of the American woman demanding change. Her demands have been met, but did she lose sight of the burden which now whispers from that sanction of antiquity?
How did she move so far from considering the great subjects of morals and religion? She is now free to live as she chooses. Perhaps she must still fight to keep herself free. She must struggle to rise above the assertion that she is not who she proclaims herself to be. She is still, after all her wars, a woman. And she still must yield life to the next generation.
Is this what the fight for equality has become? Have we taken a step too far into a modern battle of women against womanhood? The women’s movement in this country brought an end to the law prohibiting birth control, first among married couples, then later among single women. A plausible grievance met by a reasonable change to the law, though some may disagree. It didn’t keep abortion from becoming the focal point of the condition of the American woman. Instead, the right to end life by choice has usurped every other consideration. At least that’s how it appears. If it is not the entitlement most desperately demanding preservation by this recent movement, then they are not representing themselves well enough to be understood.
Are those early demands which evolved into the current angry cry now irrelevant? They have at least some basis in a much older documentation of equality. Liberation first occurred, and perhaps a movement began, when Christ broke the agreements and constraints of culture and cast aside the exclusion of women from His plans. No matter how much we kick against our great Creator, He desires to draw us near without bias. He does not offer grace to one group above another. We are all equal. More equal in the eyes of God than in the opinion of society, or the appraisal of government, or by our own pensive declarations.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28