Prior to 1776, women exercised the right to vote in several American colonies. After 1776, states rewrote their constitutions to prevent women from voting. After 1787, women were able to vote only in New Jersey. Women continued to vote in New Jersey until 1807, when male legislators officially outlawed woman suffrage.
In the 1830s, thousands of women were involved in the movement to abolish slavery. Women wrote articles for abolitionist papers, circulated abolitionist pamphlets, and circulated, signed, and delivered petitions to Congress calling for abolition. Some women became prominent leaders in the abolition movement. Angelina Grimke and Sarah Moore Grimke became famous for making speeches to mixed (male and female) audiences about slavery. For this radical action, clergymen soundly condemned them. As a result, in addition to working for abolition, the Grimke sisters began to advocate for women’s rights.
Other women who were active in the abolitionist movement became interested in women’s rights as well, for many reasons. Female abolitionists sometimes faced discrimination within the movement itself, which led to their politicization on the issue of women’s rights. In addition, women working to secure freedom for African Americans began to see some legal similarities between their situation as Anglo women and the situation of enslaved black men and women.
In 1840, the World Anti-Slavery Convention was held in London. Abolitionists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott attended the Convention but were refused seats on the floor by male abolitionists because they were women. As a result, Stanton and Mott decided to hold a convention on women’s rights.
"All I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks and permit us to stand upright on the ground which God intended us to occupy" - Sarah Moore Grimke