ELIZABETH CADY STANTON, SELF SOVEREIGN: A BIOGRAPHY BASED ON SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) was the principal philosopher of the first women's movement in America. She initiated the suffrage crusade with her 1848 Seneca Falls Declaration and expanded its scope with demands for divorce, property rights, coeducation, and equal wages. Wealthy, intellectual, energetic, and engaging, this mother of seven disguised her radical ideology beneath a quick wit and a matronly appearance. Always controversial, she opposed black suffrage unless women were also enfranchised. She culminated her feminist career by publishing the Woman's Bible, an attack on the use of Scripture to confine women to a domestic sphere and second-class citizenship. Stanton summarized her political ideology in "The Solitude of Self," her valedictory address, asserting that women, like men, had only themselves to rely upon. Therefore women must make themselves emotionally, intellectually, financially, physically, and legally independent. Stanton achieved such "self sovereignty" in her own life. By the 1890s, she no longer depended on anyone else. The Woman's Bible was her last act of defiance; she remained undaunted. This biography examines the development of Stanton's private feminist identity and her public feminist ideology. To analyze the steps she took, this study employs social learning theory, a psychological model. According to this theory, Stanton "learned" independence: she observed it, practiced it, was capable of undertaking it, was approved by people whose approval she valued, was satisfied by it, and chose to maintain it even when a majority criticized her. A series of male and female role models and mentors in Stanton's life provided examples of independent action for her to emulate and encouraged her efforts in that direction. As Stanton matured, she gained greater confidence in her independence and became increasingly self-reliant. The satisfaction she derived from her behavior prompted her to maintain it, until in her old age, she had outdistanced all of her models to become truly "self sovereign.".