A story from the childhood of Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

“When I was eleven years old two events occurred which changed the current of my life. My only brother, who had just graduated from Union College, came home to die. A young man of great talent and promise, he was the pride of my father’s heart. We early felt that his son filled a larger place in our father’s affection and future plans than the five daughters together. Well do I remember how tenderly he watched my brother in his last illness, the sighs and tears he gave vent to as he slowly walked up and down the hall, and, when the last sad moment came, and we were all assembled to say farewell in the silent chamber of death, how broken were his utterances as he knelt too, going into the large darkened parlor to see my brother, and finding the casket, mirrors, and pictures all draped in white, and my father seated by his side, pale, immovable. As he took no notice of me, after standing a long while, I climbed upon his knee, when he mechanically put his arm about me and, with my head resting against his beating heart, we both sat in silence, he thinking of the wreck of all his hopes in the loss of a dear son, and I wondering what could be said or done to fill the void in his breast. At length he heaved a deep sigh and said: ‘Oh, my daughter, would that you were a boy!’

Then and there I resolved that I would not give so much time as heretofore to play, but would study and strive to be at the head of all my classes and thus delight my father’s heart. All that day and far into the night I pondered the problem of boyhood. I thought that the chief thing to be done in order to equal boys was to be learned and courageous. So I desired to study Greek and learn to manage a horse. Having formed this conclusion I feel asleep. My resolutions, unlike many such made at night, did not vanish with the coming dawn. I arose early and hastened to put them into execution. They were resolutions never to be forgotten – defined to mold my character anew.”

– Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who would become a suffragist, social activist, and an abolitionist in the U.S.

Source: Eighty Years and More: Reminiscences 1815 – 1897 by Elizabeth Cady Stanton