Elizabeth Cady Stanton initiated the demand for women’s voting rights in 1848. The women’s suffrage movement began in earnest, however, after Stanton and Susan B. Anthony became enraged that the Fifteenth Amendment (1869–70) conferred suffrage on uneducated, formerly enslaved men but excluded white women. They made their position clear in 1869 by breaking off from the American Equal Rights Association, an abolitionist organization, to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Rather than changing individual state constitutions, they called for a federal amendment granting women the right
to vote. Moreover, Stanton called for “Educated Suffrage,” which would limit voting rights to the literate, disqualifying most formerly enslaved African Americans and many poor, illiterate white people.
Stanton emphasized her own reading habits and intelligence in this portrait. Seated beside a hefty volume stacked with papers, her eyeglasses resting on her lap, she appears lost in serious contemplation.