“Woman is man’s equal.”

“Woman is man’s equal.”

Declaration of Sentiments issued at Seneca Falls, New York, July 1848

“The equal right of Woman to social, civil and political equality, has always been to me like an axiom which it were as idle to dispute as to undertake to controvert the multiplication table.” – Lavinia Goodell, 1875

On July 19, 1848, the first woman’s rights convention held in the United States convened in Seneca Falls, New York.

The event was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a distant cousin of Lavinia Goodell’s mother, and Lucretia Mott. The women had met at an anti-slavery convention in London eight years earlier. Stanton and Mott were barred from the convention floor because of their gender, and their indignation formed the seeds of the women’s rights movement in America.

Seneca Falls Convention, 1848
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Lavinia at the 1876 Centennial Celebration

Lavinia at the 1876 Centennial Celebration

From May to November 1876, Philadelphia hosted the first official World’s Fair in the United States. Called the “Centennial International Exhibition of 1876,” the event celebrated the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Lavinia not only attended it, her certificate of admission to the Rock County Circuit Court bar and her briefs arguing for admission to the Wisconsin Supreme Court were, according to her sister, among the “curiosities” on display there.

The Centennial international Exhibition

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“The one element lacking in our government is women.”

“The one element lacking in our government is women.”

–Lavinia Goodell, October 1878

 Lavinia Goodell was a lifelong proponent of women’s suffrage. She said she could not remember a time when she did not believe women should have the right to vote.     

Lavinia frequently wrote and spoke on the suffrage question. Some of her writings may be found here. In October of 1878, she gave a one hour speech at a gathering of the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association  in Providence, Rhode Island. Although we have not found a manuscript of Lavinia’s full remarks, the Providence Journal ran a lengthy article praising the speech:

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Lavinia Goodell’s Bid to Become Janesville City Attorney

Lavinia Goodell’s Bid to Become Janesville City Attorney

Long before anyone asked whether women are “electable,” Lavinia Goodell threw her hat in the ring. This week CUNY professor Jill Norgren, and Swarthmore College Professor Wendy Chmielewski guest post on one of Lavinia’s little known, impressive firsts–1st American woman to run for city attorney. Professors Norgren and Chmielewski co-founded HerHatWasinthe ring.org, a timely digital project about women who ran for office before 1920. Norgren wrote Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would be President, a fascinating biography about one of Lavinia’s “sisters in law.

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“I am dying to see a sensible woman. And they don’t abound here.”

“I am dying to see a sensible woman. And they don’t abound here.”

In June 1919, Wisconsin became the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. In celebration of this great achievement many have repeated an enchanting origin story of Wisconsin’s women’s suffrage movement published in The Milwaukee Journal on December 21, 1924:

Way down in the southwestern corner of Wisconsin, the little town of Richland Center has been glorified above all towns in the state in that it is the cradle of women’s suffrage in Wisconsin.

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