Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals

America freed itself from British domination to build an independent country in which every person would have their fundamental rights protected. It is not a surprise that such a state-created the Constitution that began with the words 'We the People;' however, the equality and liberty for all citizens of the new state was just a myth, and black people were enslaved, whereas husbands or fathers controlled women. Earlier during the colonial period, women in some states had a right to vote in case they possessed some property, but this practice came to an end starting in 1777 when the state of New York forbade women to vote.

In the end, this situation has led to the fact that almost all of the nineteenth century, American women will be forced to fight fSuffrageor the right to vote. This period of struggle will coincide with the abolitionist movement, the Civil War, as well as the First World War. All of these great historical moments both helped and prevented women from achieving their goals.

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Suffragi, thesuffrageobtainthe suffrage ostain the in Suffrage were aware of rhetorical devices that helped men to win the battle and create a perfect Union for everybody who believes in democracy and fundamental rights. However, those rights and equality were not for everyone, so suffragists were to face that the opposition used other reasoning and logic, and the pathos of liberty was just an empty sign. This paper analyzes the Declaration of Sentiments as one of the first texts of this movement written under the discursive formation of the young democracy.

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It should be understood that the nineteenth century was the century of the patriarchal order, during which women had no right to own or dispose of property, to study on an equal basis with men, or to have an active social life. Moreover, in the case of divorce, it was hard for women to store their right to be with kids and communicate with them. The idea of true womanhood dictated each woman be a gentle mother and caring wife, whose main women'sHouris to control the household and raise the kids. All these ideas of genuine womanhood were used as arguments against the suffrage movement, and some of them will be discussed below. A good example of such patriarchal order and logic can be found in the in theth story of the Grimké sisters (Mead, 2018). These women were active participants of the abolitionist movement and had speeches in front of a big audience. As a response to their activity 'the Massachusetts Council of Congregational Ministers issued a pastoral letter in 1837 denouncing their behavior as unwomanly' (Mead, 2018). Thus, the society built on the idea of human dignity and equality used the rhetoric that did not overlap with thoughts that helped the women'sHourFounding Fathers to shape the Declaration of the Independence or Constitution.

Thus, the idea of women, the submissive role was popular because it was also supported by social and political discourse: after the victory in the revolution, America demanded a large number of patriots and loyal citizens. Therefore, there were specialized schools for women, where they received an education, which, to the authors of the program, could help them to be good wives and mothers (Mead, 2018). In addition to a clear desire to divide the world into male and female spheres, men allowed themselves to live by double standards, having mistresses or visiting prostitutes, while their women thei  women'sn were forbidden to walk along the street unaccompanied. The toxicity of such a situation conveys the short story 'The Story of an Hour' by Kate Chopin, in which she showed the joy of a woman from being freed from the power of her husband and the waking of her free will.

At the same time, it should be noted that in the middle other The convention aimedfaimedaimed aimedwomenthe  the nineteenth century not all male citizens had the right to vote and this sentence is not only about black males but about whites too because theof, aimed issue of a prpropertyopert was a critical indicator for giving citizens a right to vote. Therefore, the demand to vote for all women was a radical step, and this feature must be remembered. At the same time, ongoing industrialization that forced a large number of women to go to work, as well as the development of school education, which required female teachers, helped women from different strata to unite and recognize own political agenda.

The official beginning of the suffrage movement is perceived to be the Seneca Falls Convention that happened in 1848. women'sthegranted to 'discuss the SOCIAL, CIVIL, AND RELIGIOUS CONDITION OF WOMAN' (Douglass). One of the leaders of this meeting was Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The Convention created the document named The Declaration of Sentiments that was modeled as a Declaration of Independence and was perceived as a radical one because the demand for freedom was expressed not via begins or long reasoning why the women suffrage is essential to the whole nation but in the form of an aggressive demand and reverse of the previous cry of American men to fight for American liberty.

The subsequent years of the suffrage movement had a large number of important dates. So, the American Equal Rights Association was organized in 1866; in 1869, the movement faced separation into the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association (Huth, 2018). During those years, women wrote many bills for different authorities in all states of the Union to make them pass a bill to grant women thegrantedwomen's right to vote. This tactic was successful - Wyoming grant women this right in 1869, and women'sensurUtah did this in 1870 (Huth, 2018). However, in 1868, Congress defined citizens as males in the Fourteenth Amendment; it was the first time in US history that an official document used this word and also signalized women about the attitude of congressmen toward their struggle for freedom. In 1870 Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment to give black males born or naturalized in the US a right to vote, which was a big victory for all blacks (Mead, 2018). However, after this victory, many active advocates of abolition and black emancipation stopped their support of women suffensurgovernessesrage to ensuringensurewomen'sthe the development of freedoms of blacks.

It is worthwhile to separately, however, briefly say about the participation of suffragist women during the Civil War and First World War. Thus, during the Civil War, American women became active participants in events in both parts of a divided America, working and conducting business, and creating charitable organizations, governesspropertythat the raising children, and working as sisters of mercy. During these years, when the life of the Union was in question, on, and the problem of the liberation of the black slaves was the number one issue, suffragism faded into the background (NWHM). However, the participation of women in this war only showed women how strong they are, and how necessary the right to vote for them is. After the war, the super-rapid development of industrial cities and industries in the North took place, which once again gave women a bit more freedom and employment opportunities. Before World War I, women from the middle and poor classes could work as teachers and governess and assistants, aIn the factory workers, and also as servants. However, the difference between the salaries of men and women, as well as the lack of social guarantees, only aggravated the desire of suffragist women to win (Mead, 2018). Remarkable for the suffragist movement is the First World War, participation in which was a difficult choice for America. It is known that President Wilson believed that America should enter the war and defend democracy, which eventually led to the entry of the United States into this war. Suffragists faced a dilemma: to continue their campaigns or to cease their activities for some time to concentrate all forces on supporting the front. For example, Silent Sentinels was a group led by Alice Paul who picketed near the White House asking about democracy in the US; the members were imprisoned (Huth, 2018). The last years before the victory, suffragists faced smaller victories in different states that gave them that the voitheyfailurebyce and the failure in 1918 when Congress did not pass the bill (Huth, 2018). Furthermore, those years were marked with manipulations by various politicians, for example, Roosevelt and Wilson who expressed support forAnalysisfeminis suffrage. Finally, the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified in 1920 stated 'The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex' (


Although modern theories of rhetoric have several schools of feminists rhetorical analysis, the analysis of the speeches and documents of the participants of the suffrage movement is a complex task. First, the woman and her words and thoughts, and feelings are still determined through socialization in the patriarchal environment, and, therefore, it is difficult to say how far women could go beyond the discourse created by patriarchy in their political initiatives. Secondly, I will quote the opinion of Campbell that was used in the essay by Chesebro and Hamsher on contemporary rhetorical theory to show how difficult it is to speak about the rhetorical strategies of the Other in the context of political activist movements of black Americans 'the rhetoric of women's liberation is a distinctive genre because it evinces unique rhetorical qualities that are a fusion of substantive and stylistic features' (Chesebro & Hamsher, 1975). Therefore, this study of the rhetoric of the suffrage movement is limited by the fact that which from thefromwoman remains chained and unrecognized by themselves. Also, due to a large number of decades of activities of various suffragist associations, the modern researcher has a large selection of text to analyze. However, this paper will be centered on the Declaration of Sentiments signed in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention as a text that opens an era of a struggle for women's suffrage.

One can start the analysis from the cover of the magazine The Suffragist published in 1917 whichfromthe depicts psychological a woman with a banner (NWHM). Although this journal is the product of later decades of struggle and the words on the banner are a quote of President Wilson's address, the demands on it characterize the discursive situation in which suffragist women worked accurately. The poster states: 'We Shall Fight for the Things We Have Always Carried Nearest Our Hearts, For Democracy. For The Right of Those Who Submit To Authority To Have A Voice In Their Own Governments' (NWHM). The main word, undoubtedly, is the word 'DEMOCRACY,' which is of crucial importance to American society. So, having become possible thanks to the French Revolution and the philosophers of Europeanthe European thethetheremai   Enlightenment, as well as to Stuart Mill, who quickly gained fame through his thoughts on social contact, as well as his active support of the idea of gender equality, the idea of ​​equality of people regardless of their place of birth or status became dominant. Although the history of the American Revolution can be perceived as the story of the realization of one of the most courageous conspiracy theories in reality, the thesis of equality and the right to self-determination became the driving force that allows the Founding Fathers to unite around themselves a large number of patriots who were ready to die for an independent America. The appeal of women to democracy during the campaign for obtaining the right to vote is the key to both the argument and the field of understanding between activists and politicians that need to be analyzed according to Lunsford & Ede (1984).

One of the first documents of suffragists is Dec which from thearation, thethe  which of Sentiments, in which women infringe on the 'holy' topic. They reversed the Declaration of Independence of America, that servedwhichlogicallygiven as the official explanation for the proclamation of independence through systematic political and economic and other harassment of residents of thirteen colonies by the British authorities, participants of the Seneca Falls Convention enumerate sentiments about their subordinate role and lack of rights. It is loLogically,givengivengical that this declaration ends with the followinggivenAhistoryn: 'Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation,—in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United States' (Stanton and Anthony Papers Online, 2010). That means that the epoch and discourse that made the emergence of the Declaration of Independence of America gave the tools and the concept, and the lexical means to women who sought to get an equal position in society. It is appropriate to recall Michel Foucault, who believed that the discursive formation is a frame of events and human actions, and words (Bean, 2010). The use of the genre and the same structure of reasoning indicate that those women were aware of the discourse and its style that was secured and awarded among those in power. Therefore, the decision to take the form and style of the United States Declaration of Independence can be viewed as a use of existing permitted words and practices. In addition, Foucault encouraged to always ask who said certain words, because hierarchy and hegemony are vital characteristics that make it possible to understand what was said and for what purpose. Most of the Seneca Falls Convention participants were women, but on the second day of their gathering, the men were also admitted. One of them was Frederick Douglass, who wrote a brief report on the ideas of the convention and its essence. This document that repeats the words of women and the conclusions of the convention's two-day work is even easier to find than the original text of the Declaration of Sentiments even today; this indicates that a woman as a carrier of a specific political message that does not help maintain the existing order should have support and verification from men or to be silenced. It is known that in the early stages, suffragists actively united with the abolitionists, because democracy is the ability of all citizens of the country to control their own lives and determine their future, and, therefore, black slaves should have been given freedom and all political rights. Therefore, the female suffrage movement has its basis in the belief that all people are equal and no one can control others. This idea was popular among abolitionists and patriots.

The response of society and the struggle of various opponents and anti-suffrage movements were active and rapid. The good example of this feedback is the poem from the newspaper The Woman's Protest published in 1912. Although this was written after the Declaration of Sentiments, it consists of all popular arguments against the idea of the womenAwomen'shistory vote. For example, 'B is for Battle against women's vote./C is for Children we fight to protect;/D is for Duties we never neglect (...) H is for Home, which we mean to maintain. (...). O, Obligations we cannot ignore;/P is for Principle marching before' (eHISTORY). This poem shows that opponents did not use the same genre or style but used arguments based on another logic and method of reasoning. Thus, the suffrage movement was rooted in a discourse on rebellion and emancipation, and human equality, while the critical response to ideas based on this generally accepted and popular in America to this day discourse used another discursive situation. This situation was rooted in the belief that men and women are different people, and the otherness of women does not allow them to be equated with men. Arguments about beauty, parenting, delicate psychelogicallpsychological,possessed and lack of logical reasoning are not topics of the struggle of the US to gain independence from the colonial oppression. Therefore, the feedback was not in terms of discursive formation that framed the way women demandingdemandpossessed their rights. However, Patriarthea'spossesse psychological psychologicalwhicthe system that posses hegemony for many centuries and, therefore, one needs to remember that even speaking about general law and the equality of all people means speaking only about men. Moreover, it is known that the Founding Fathers did not manage to ban the institution of slavery, so the public discourse that they created by propaganda and wise description of the need for Americans to fight for their liberty is an empty sign that does not express any true meaning but only makes an image of one that can convey a meaning. So, it can be said that women acting in the discursive formation of that era did not possess depth understanding of the goals and the sense of intentions of men. However, this situation helps to link educated women from a middle and upper class who started this movement and the audience of working-class women who was entering this movement in the next decades. Both speakers and audience did not rule over those ideas expressed in genre and lexicon created by men to support their desire to create ana t independent country for their commerce and own taxation. So, women were to use empty signs that helped men to create an independent country and faced rresponsesmen'susedesponse that indicated that only genre and logic of Patriarchy is the knowledge that shapes men attitude toward women and gender roles.

All of these great historical moments both helped and prevented women from achieving their goals. Suffragists were aware of rhetorical devices that helped men to win the battle and create a perfect Union for everybody who believes in democracy and fundamental rights. However, those rights and equality were not for everyone, so suffragists were to face that the opposition use anotherusedother, reasoningpossessesis and DOI and logic andDOI the pathos of liberty was just an empty sign. This paper analyzes the Declaration of Sentiments as one of the first texts of this movement written under the discursive formation of the young democracy.

If one analyzes this declaration using classical rhetoric, it is impossible to understand the importance of this document fully. Thus, the ethos of this declaration is the experience of women, who for two days discussed their problems and sufferings, to express them subsequently in the form of another declaration, which already had the status of a cult and holy document for all citizens of the US. Also, the text spoke about all women, not dividing them by color or social status, which only strengthened the ethical nature of such a document. Since the list of injuries and systematic, institutionalized humiliations is recorded in as hard and legal language as possible, a robust emotional response arises from the junction of calm presentation and content. Therefore, the pathos in the Declaration of Sentiments convinces the reader to giveDOIwomen the right to vote. Since this declaration is the result of the work of a large number of women, and the logic of presentation is borrowed from the Declaration of Independence, women managed to acquire logos from men who received independence as a most respected authority. However, it was not enough to make a positive impression on the male audience of this declaration.

In conclusion, the Declaration of Sentiments is an interesting paper to analyze using both classical and modern rhetoric, because thanks to different approaches the text shows its depth. Women managed to create their declaration with strong pathos, logos, and ethos, but the reality in which they articulated their thoughts was not appropriate for such rhetoric and knowledge behind it. Foucault's theory of the discursive formation helps to see this declaration and to trace the role of hegemony and hierarchy in creating it.


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  2. Chesebro, J., & Hamsher, C. (1975). Contemporary rhetorical theory and criticism: Dimensions of the new rhetoric. Speech Monographs, 42(4), 311-334. DOIacre for,:, is  10.1080/03637757509375907
  3. Douglass, F. Report of the Woman's Rights Convention - Women's Rights National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service). Retrieved from
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  5. Huth, M. (2018). US Suffrage Movement Timeline, 1869 to present. Retrieved from
  6. Lunsford, A., & Ede, L. (1984). Classical Rhetoric, Modern Rhetoric, and Contemporary Discourse Studies. Written Communication, 1(1), 78-100. doi: 10.1177/0741088384001001004
  7. Mead, R. (2018). The Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States. Oxford Research Encyclopedia Of American History. acre forusedresponses's: 10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.013.17
  8. NWHM. Appeal to the Christian women of the South [Image]. Retrieved from
  9. NWHM. 'Insulting the President?' [Image]. Retrieved from
  10. Stanton and Anthony Papers Online. (2010). Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions. Retrieved from
  11. 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women's Right to Vote (1920). Retrieved from
Updated: May 21, 2022
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Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals essay
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