SKANEATELES | Before the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 declared that "all men and women are created equal," Elizabeth Cady Stanton said women confused their privileges with their rights
In a nation "of great privilege, of great wealth, of great opportunity," she said, women who spent their lives well taken care of and loved by fathers husbands with comfort and wealth thought status to be their right instead of their privilege.
Stanton said, "there as something sinister" about that supposed right, as men felt that women could not be their equals and would be their dependents for life.
But, after the women's right convention, "women all over the country began to talk about their rights," she said — including the right to vote that gained the most attention and the right to own property that mattered most.
"They began to believe that there was something more that they were called to do, Stanton said. "But also, there was this reaction of rage against us — a storm of anger that rolled over us as we began to declare our rights."
Stanton — portrayed by Cayuga Community College adjunct history lecturer Melinda Grube — opened the Inspiring Women: The Women TIES Retreat Thursday with a 40-minute speech about how she and early suffragists left a legacy of demanding for women the same rights as men.
As they planned the 1848 convention, Stanton said it was Lucretia Mott who inspired her the most and helped to clarify what the fight was about.
"You have as much right as any man to think your own thoughts," Stanton said Mott told her. "You have as much right to worship and believe or not believe as any great theologian. You have as much right to speak as any other human being."
Thus, Stanton said she learned that a privilege is "something that the people of power can give us, and it is something they can take away," while a right is "something only God Almighty can give us, and no one can take it from us."
She noted women did achieve the right to hold property when the New York State Legislature passed the Married Women's Property Act, but they were still barred from signing contracts and couldn't sell or will their property without their husband's permission.
Still, women such as Stanton spent their lives continuing to strive for equal pay and equal opportunity yet never fully achieved either. Stanton ended her speech by urging the audience of women entrepreneurs to continue seeking the equality of rights and status with men that they deserve.
"Whether or not the powers of the world acknowledge it, you are your brother's equals," she said. "Your duties, sorrows, responsibilities, hopes and passions are as great and your obligation to answer to whatever power that calls to you is as urgent."
"It is the deepest outrage, the most loathsome injustice, to stand in the way of another soul's right to self-sovereignty," she added. "Do not accept it."
As the keynote speaker for the seventh annual Women TIES conference, Trisha Torrey followed Stanton with a 45-minute speech about she started a career in patient advocacy and created her own legacy in the process.
Starting her career as a teacher and then moving into marketing, she was misdiagnosed with a rare form of cancer and used her anger to find out information for herself and then helped others research their diagnoses, medical services, insurance and other aspects related to their healthcare.
"I never gave any thought to the fact that I was creating a legacy," Torrey told the audience. "You are too already. ... That was the birth of Trisha the empowered patient. It was so nice to be angry instead of scared."
Like Stanton, Torrey noted that the only reason she got what she needed is because she got angry and went on a mission to achieve the results.
That launched her into writing columns, hosting radio programs and speaking to groups to discuss her experience and help others navigate their own healthcare experience in order to obtain the correct outcome.
"I help people get what they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford from the healthcare system," Torrey said, noting being able to help others in turn helped her feel better about her own experience.
Using her own experience, Torrey encouraged the women entrepreneurs to whom she spoke to leave a legacy by turning whatever passion they have into a business and using that passion to fill a need for people.
For example, she said, a woman might start a fitness facility not just because she has a passion for exercising but also because she wants to fill a human need in the community.
Similarly, Torrey said, her experience was the worst thing that happened to her and yet the best thing that happened to her because she discovered a new passion and used that to help people.
"I don't work for a living. I actually have a little bit of a living, and I work because I really do love what I do," she said. "It gave me a purpose. It gave me this wonderful thought that I'm one of the lucky people who knows why she was put on this earth."