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Living Large: Tackling the Life and Thought of Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Lori D. Ginzberg, Ph.D.
Lori D. Ginzberg, professor of history and women's studies at Penn State

By Margaux Kay LaPointe , '11

On Wednesday, March 12, Lori D. Ginzberg, Ph.D., delivered a lecture entitled, “Living Large: Tackling the Life and Thought of Elizabeth Cady Stanton,” as part of Women’s History Month. The event was co-sponsored by Falvey Memorial Library, where the event took place, and the Women’s Studies Program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“We’re extremely excited to work with such a strong program [Women’s Studies] to host events for Women’s History Month,” said Darren Poley, Falvey’s programming and outreach librarian.

Ginzberg is a professor of history and women’s studies at Pennsylvania State University. She has published three books concerning women’s reforms, including her most recent book, Untidy Origins: A Story of Woman’s Rights in Antebellum New York. The book she is currently writing, Living Large: Tackling the Life and Thought of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, will be her first biography, although she considers herself a “historian writing biography,” she said.

Ginzberg expressed that she “never much loved or understood biography. I would be much more bored reading my life than living it…. I don’t believe that her [Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s] story is the story of the times.” Ginzberg said that she disagrees with many of Stanton's conceptions of social reforms, causing her to have what she considers a "life-long fight" with Stanton. She feels that it is important, however, to address Stanton in “real time,” as Stanton would have experienced her own life, and to “rethink history in light of recent history,” Ginzberg said.

Stanton was part of both the abolitionist and the women’s suffrage movements. “She saw herself as a founding leader and philosopher of the feminist movement,” Ginzberg said. Stanton also was considered elitist, anti-Semitic, and racist because she lived “stand-alone feminism,” believing that women’s ‘votelessness’ was the central issue in America’s democracy.

When introduced to the abolition movement, Stanton threw herself in because she “loved to talk and being in the center of the action,” Ginzberg said. She continued to explain that when Stanton’s fellow members of the women’s suffrage movement would later place the issue of women’s votelessness above other issues, Stanton experienced a feeling of “entitlement and a sense of superiority,” causing her to express racist remarks. Ginzberg expressed her own feelings, saying, “I was convinced that they were wimps.” She later realized that this was a moral choice, although not what Stanton would consider moral.

Despite Stanton’s inconsistencies, Ginzberg considers her to be a major figure in the women’s suffrage movement.

“Ideas we now take utterly for granted were once radically new because of Stanton’s life work,” Ginzberg said.

Margaux Kay LaPointe, ’11, is a first-year student from Lebanon, Pa. She is an intern in the Office of Communications in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University. Margaux plans on majoring in communication with a specialization in public relations.

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Director of Communications, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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