IN HER OWN RIGHT: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton by Elisabeth Griffith

IN HER OWN RIGHT: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1816-1902) was long and full; and in cataloguing most of its events and plentiful controversies, Griffith supplements the biographical data in Lois Banner's concise, more roundly successful account of Stanton's intellectual and public life (1979). Married to abolitionist/politician/ journalist Henry Stanton (who never fulfilled his early promise), Stanton reared seven children; launched the Woman's Movement at Seneca Falls in 1848; and for the next half-century remained its chief (and most radical) theorist and goad. As essayist, lyceum lecturer, itinerant organizer, and head of the National Woman Suffrage Association (and later the National American Woman Suffrage Association), she traveled widely in the West, a fat ""jolly"" matron in white curls and cap, peddling a broad program of equal rights and radical feminism; along the way she alienated a good number of her early friends and supporters, including from time to lime her lifelong alter ego, Susan B. Anthony. Griffith gussies up her chronological account with the jargon of psychological ""social learning theory,"" explaining Stanton's life in terms of role models--mainly her parents and Lucretia Mott--from whom she ""learned"" independence, a ""behavior"" she then ""practiced"" in midlife and ""maintained"" in old age. This device produces such observations as: ""Stanton in her old age became more tolerant of her own shortcomings and more self-confident in her own identity."" It diminishes Stanton from the great woman of earlier old-fashioned biography (Alma Lutz, Created Equal, 1940) to familiar narcissism, but leaves big questions about her life and work untouched (her marriage; her racism and elitism). Indeed, the best description of Stanton's character so far is a phrenological character analysis included here as an appendix. But the biographical amplification gives this at least short-term utility.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1984
ISBN: 0195037294
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press