- The earliest feminists largely were also opposed to marriage. As one leading 19th-century feminist wrote: “It is in vain to look for the elevation of woman, so long as she is degraded in marriage. … I feel that this whole question of woman’s rights turns on the point of the marriage relation.” Though she was a mother of seven who was married for nearly 50 years, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was vocal in her low opinion of marriage—a perspective that shaped feminist thinking through the next 150 years.
- It is vain to look for the elevation of woman so long as she is degraded in marriage. I say, it is a sin, an outrage on our holiest feelings to pretend that anything but deep, fervent love and sympathy constitutes marriage. The right idea of marriage is at the foundation of all reform.
I am aware that Stanton called marriage "slavery" and "legalized prostitution." However, it seems that the extreme of her position was that a woman ought to be able to escape a violent marriage and take her children with her. She deplored the inequity of the wife's legal position in marriage. She depicts the woman who is dragged by the hair across the floor, kicked and pounded in front of the children. Personally, I find much sympathy in her writing.
I am sad that a published author like McCulley would provide such a misleading charaterization of the early feminists.