Vivian Gornick, author and supporter of the women’s suffrage movement spoke in Clarice Buckman Theater on Sat,, March 4 at the 12 Annual Women’s Creativity Conference. At her keynote address, she spoke about feminism and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the organizers of the suffrage movement in the 1840’s and 1850’s. Gornick discussed her novel “The Solitude of Self: Thinking about Elizabeth Cady Stanton,” and what it means to be a woman in America.
“It was feminism that made me feel American and to be all that I could be,” Gornick said. Gornick said that history is painful to look at because it follows a similar cycle. Mary Wollstonecraft was the first woman to state her feelings in her Vindications of the Rights of Woman, and Gornick said that every 50 years, the idea of women’s suffrage surfaces again.
It’s not enough,” she said. “I want to see a world that is gender-free.”
Gornick described Stanton’s life as an existential thinker. She felt that she was born alone, would live alone, and would die alone, simply because she was a woman. Stanton felt that simply being born a woman automatically made her an outsider and limited her rights.
Born into a large, well-to-do family in New York, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was expected to marry a wealthy man, have children and become a “typical stay at home house-wife.” She was a smart girl, and her father knew she was more intelligent than her other sisters.
She was outraged at the fact that her father knew how smart she was, but did not want her to apply it. He wanted her to marry and be a housewife. After fulfilling her father’s dream and marrying Henry Stanton, she was bored with the life of being a mother of seven. Almost overnight, Elizabeth Cady Stanton became what Gornick calls a “flaming radical.”
She went to the Seneca Falls Convention to discuss women’s rights and became one of the organizers of the entire movement, along side Susan B. Anthony. Stanton wrote down everything she wanted, and created a “women’s Bible.” People were furious with her work and her name almost disappeared in the women’s suffrage movement.
“When she had a thought, she remained faithful to it,” Gornick said of Stanton’s book. “She had to see it live out in the world.”
Gornick became interested in women’s rights after she wrote a story on liberal women in New York in the 1970’s, a time when reform was thrilling. She found that women were still being treated as second class citizens and wanted to do something about it. Gornick was inspired by Stanton’s story and wanted others to know about her and the suffrage movement as a whole. Gornick joined the movement and used it as a source of strength. She participated in one of the largest reform groups on record, and describes her work as bliss.
“I want to be born into a level playing field,” Gornick said. “You can’t make a living out of loving. Plato felt the desire for political liberty, but said that women don’t need it. Every fifty years or so women stand up to this.”
Gornick wants the world to become more equal for both men and women, and wants people to understand what women like Stanton did for us. Gornick said that fear prevents the women’s rights movement from being a complete mission, and people need to step up and complete what so many women before us started.
The Women’s Creativity Conference was an all-day event with a variety of workshops, including “Yoga: The Way to Stay Fit and Sane,” “A New Kind of Homemaking: Adventures in ‘Do-It-Herself ‘,” “An International Herspective,” “The Gilded Age: Dressing the Part,” “Desire in the Gilded Age: Kate Chopin’s Novel The Awakening,” “Designing Women Tell All,” and “Creating Change: Marriage Equality and the Stories We Share.”