Sarah and Angelina Grimke were Southern women who hated slavery and could no longer live in their slave-owning families. They came North and told about black children being sold away from their parents; they spoke of whippings and other horrors. Their audiences were astonished, for they had not known of these things. Angelina went before the Massachusetts legislature and presented tens of thousands of antislavery petitions that had been collected by women. She became the first American woman to address a legislative body . "What kind of woman would speak in front of men?" people asked. "A monster woman!" was the answer. Massachusetts ministers were angry. A letter was read in every Congregational church in the state. It said: "[Woman] depends on the weakness which God has given her for her protection. But when she assumes the place and tone of a man as a public performer, our care and protection of her seem unnecessary. If the vine thinks to assume the independence of the elm, [the vine] will fall in shame and dishonor into the dust."
Some women didn't want to be vines. They thought they could stand without support. They believed they could think and act for themselves as the equal of any man . Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of those women. When she read the nation's great Declaration of Independence, it bothered her. "All men are created equal," it said. But what about all women? Elizabeth's father, Daniel Cady, was a judge; she spent hours in his office listening and learning law. "If only you had been born a boy," he told her, "you could have been a lawyer." Elizabeth didn't want to be a boy. But she wanted to use her mindand she did. At school she became a top student. Soon she would be using her intelligence to help women everywhere.