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«All Men and Women Are Created Equal»

Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s and Susan B. Anthony’s Proverbial Rhetoric Promoting Women’s Rights

Wolfgang Mieder

Even a cursory glance at the letters, speeches, and essays of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902) and Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) reveals that these two nineteenth-century feminists relied on Biblical and folk proverbs to make their relentless case for the equality of men and women before the law and in social interaction. All Men and Women Are Created Equal investigates the use and function of this proverbial language in their personal relationship and their vast correspondence, the appearance of the proverbial rhetoric in their many speeches and essays, and their innovative employment of proverbial quotations from such documents as the Declaration of Independence to further their cause. It also looks at how proverbs in their traditional wording or as innovatively changed pieces of wisdom were used to argue both for equal pay and education of women and to overcome the misogyny of the established church. A final chapter looks at how the Biblical proverb «Do unto others as you would have them do unto you» became a powerful verbal tool to justify their rightful call for equal rights for women. These interpretive chapters are followed by a large index of proverbs and proverbial expressions that are listed in their rhetorical contexts with precise information as to their source and date. Both parts together tell the story of Stanton’s and Anthony’s lives and work by way of enlightening proverbial paragraphs dealing with women’s rights.
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10. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”


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“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

The Golden Rule as the Philosophical Foundation of Equality

As Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony struggled for more than five decades for equal rights for women, they had their relapses but they also made progress with their sociopolitical agenda. As they grew older, they were perfectly willing to express some of their disappointments and frustrations in short statements that at times featured a piece of proverbial wisdom in their center. Still remaining was the temperance issue with alcohol being a major culprit for unhappy marriages. Drawing on the Bible proverb “He who seeks to save his life shall lose it” (Matthew 16:25), Susan B. Anthony expresses hope that this battle will be won soon especially if women were to get more power by gaining voting rights and thus stop the old-boy network of politicians protecting the liquor traffic:

The liquor traffic to save its life from the touch of woman’s hand disenfranchised her. So that the control of affairs relapsed to the man. Then came the prohibitory law, successful in rural districts but a dead letter in cities. The men elected to office were not anxious to have the law enforced. But we are witnessing an application of the old saying, “He who seeks to save his life shall lose it.” The women of today have actually the power to dispose...

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