Worcester is an energetic place with a respected history. Impressively, it has also been the setting for a number of significant happenings. For example, it was integral in the anti-slavery movement, became a key stop for the Underground Railroad, and John Adams, an esteemed Founding Father, taught school in this well-regarded city.
However, did you know that Worcester was also the site for the first National Women’s Rights Convention?
Let’s look at some interesting particulars surrounding this event.
• Groups had gathered in different regions to discuss women rights prior to the Massachusetts conference. Yet, the first national meeting, which achieved widespread attention and became an annual event for eleven consecutive years, was held in Worcester.
• Both men and women from eleven states attended the convention.
• Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis and Lucy Stone helped organize the two-day conference.
• Brinley Hall, site of the now-Commerce Building, was chosen as the meeting place.
• The conference took place in October of 1850.
• Roughly 900 people attended the convention, including legendaries like Abby Kelley Foster, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth.
• Sarah Earle called the meeting to order, and Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis delivered the keynote address.
• Various individuals gave motivating speeches.
• Elizabeth Cady Stanton was invited to address the convention. However, she was well into a pregnancy and could not attend. A letter she wrote regarding women’s rights was read to the crowd.
• Topics such as enhanced educational opportunities, equal pay, property rights, marriage reform, better work opportunities, and suffrage were discussed.
• Multiple newspapers covered and wrote articles about the conference.
• Susan B. Anthony became especially devoted to women’s rights after reading a stirring piece by Horace Greely of the New York Tribune. He poignantly reflected on the Worcester conference and a closing speech made by Lucy Stone.
• The second annual National Women’s Rights Convention was also held at Brinley Hall in Worcester (other cities went on to host the event).
• Regardless of whether individuals of the time agreed or disagreed with expanded rights for women, key issues surrounding this topic were on the minds of many following the 1850 assemblage. Fortunately, women’s suffrage became a reality in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment.
Undoubtedly, there is often room for improvement when tackling almost any issue. Even so, a two-day, 1850 national conference with extensive newspaper reporting hastened a series of events that transformed the landscape for females. And, that pivotal meeting took place in Worcester.
Goodness, that’s impressive!