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The Nineteenth-Century Women's Dress Reform Movement

Document 8

Seneca Falls, Dec. 21, 1855.

My Dear Cousin:-- Surely, whatever dress is convenient for one sex must be for the other also. Whatever is necessary for the perfect and full development of man's physical being, must be equally so for woman. I fully agree with you that woman is terribly cramped and crippled in her present style of dress. I have not one word to utter in its defense; but to me, it seems that if she would enjoy entire freedom, she should dress just like man. . . . Disguised as a man, the distinguished French woman, "George Sand," has been able to see life in Paris, and has spoken in political meetings with great applause, as no woman could have done. In male attire, we could travel by land or sea; go through all the streets and lanes of our cities and towns by night and day, without a protector; get seven hundred dollars a year for teaching, instead of three, and ten dollars for making a coat, instead of two or three, as we now do. All this we could do without fear of insult, or the least sacrifice of decency or virtue. If nature has not made the sex so clearly defined as to be seen through any disguise, why should we make the difference so striking? Depend upon it, when men and women in their every-day life see and think less of sex and more of mind, we shall all lead far purer and higher lives.

Affectionately yours,              ELIZABETH CADY STANTON

-- Excerpt from Stanton's Reply to Gerrit Smith, in History of Woman Suffrage,
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, eds. 1881

16. According to Stanton, why should women adopt "male" attire?

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