Stanton’s use of religious imagery is much heavier than a modern feminist’s would likely be. Now, many view biblical texts as being against many of the modern ideas of feminism. Being written thousands of years ago, women played a very different role in society than they do today (as well as than they did in 1892), where they were subjected to men’s will. However, it is not as contradictory for Stanton to use religious imagery in her speech. Her view that everyone is essentially on their own in the world, each on our own journey through life (and death) evokes religious ideals throughout, and makes for a very strong argument. One section particularly stood out to me:
“Whatever the theories may be of woman’s dependence on man, in the supreme
moments of her life, he cannot bear her burdens. Alone she goes to the gates of
death to give life to every man that is born into the world; no one can share her
fears, no one can mitigate her pangs; and if her sorrow is greater than she can bear, alone she passes beyond the gates into the vast unknown.” (6)
This passage’s religious symbology of the “gates of death” are used to really point out not only how solitary everyone’s journey through life, but to show how noble a woman’s role is. Childbirth is not just part of ones role as a woman, but is rather facing death in the face.
She also uses religious imagery in softer, yet just as rhetorically powerful ways, with her anecdote about, “the little girl who helped to dress a Christmas tree for the
children of the family in which she served,” (3) in which she, though she decorated the tree, did not receive any gifts, and was left with the solitary feeling that threads throughout the speech. Her use of religious rhetoric, which goes as far as quoting Jesus himself, makes her arguments very powerful for her audience, at a time when Americans were becoming even more drawn to religion as a way of reaching social change.
The most strikingly powerful part, I must say, is her concluding sentence, which I think warrants repetition: “Who, I ask you, can take, dare take on himself the rights,
the duties, the responsibilities of another human soul?” (9)