Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Miami University
In 1869, at age fifty-four, Elizabeth Cady Stanton contracted for a lyceum lecture tour, which she continued to do for more than a decade. For several months a year, she crisscrossed the United States, traveling, usually alone, by rail, water, horse and buggy, even by wagon, taking her message of equal rights to cities, universities, churches, and towns, large and small. Her views seemed radical to many, but Elizabeth's persuasive logic and irresistible charm steadily won more and more women--and men--to share her vision.
In 1870, Miami University's lecture committee invited Elizabeth to campus. On November 9th of that year, she delivered a lecture titled "Our Girls" to the students, faculty and citizens of Oxford assembled in the chapel of the university's original building, "Old Main," located where Harrison Hall stands today. An anonymous review in the university newspaper gives an account of that event. Elizabeth, plump and grandmotherly with a "melodious voice," shared her vision of what "our girls" could become: healthy through active life and dress reform (no more corsets!); well educated through university co-education with men (she chided Miami for not admitting women); fulfilled and productive through entering professions "to work for the common cause of humanity"; and participatory in the social contract as voters. Such reforms will not occur, she stated, unless "fathers, husbands, and brothers" enlist in the cause of women's rights. The reviewer asserts that "...the attentiveness of the large and intelligent audience assembled to hear her, attested to the merit of her lecture" and concludes that "the night of woman's bondage is far spent, and the light of Franchise is fast breaking" (The Miami Student. 5.3. 23 Nov. 1870: 4-5).
Elizabeth Cady Stanton had family in Oxford. Her brother-in-law, Robert L. Stanton, was then president of Miami University. In 1868, he had built a beautiful house on the corner of Spring and Oak Streets. Elizabeth would have been a guest in the president's home, not only as a nationally known, distinguished speaker, but also as the president's sister-in-law.
One Oxford girl who called on the famous Elizabeth Cady Stanton was Lizzie McFarland, daughter of Miami University mathematics professor, Robert McFarland (Ophia Smith 58). When Robert McFarland became president of Miami in 1885, Lizzie would live with her family in what was still called the Stanton House. Encouraged by her father, Lizzie would become in 1887 one of the first women allowed to take classes at Miami.
After the Civil War, Henry Stanton's political career did not flourish as he had hoped, but his commitment to a political solution to slavery had helped the country toward what he had long envisioned: the Thirteenth Amendment which made slavery unconstitutional. He was an influential political journalist in New York until his death in 1887.
Until her death in New York in 1902, Elizabeth Cady Stanton continued to work toward her goal of woman suffrage. That enfranchisement would not be achieved until 1920 with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. Only then, largely through the efforts of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, did women in the United States win the constitutional right to vote.