“Je Pense Donc Je Suis”-Rene Descartes


   “ I live …

    For the cause that lacks assistance,

    For the wrong that needs resistance,

    For the future in the distance

    And the good that I can do.”Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Poem On Title Page of Her Diary

 On Nov. 12th, 1815, in NY, a great thinker was born, Suffragist and Abolitionist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Another wonderer was also born that day, but in 1840, in Paris, the sculptor, Auguste Rodin.

 “François-Auguste-René Rodin was born on the 12th of November 1840 to a family of modest means in Paris, France. The second child of Jean-Baptiste Rodin and Marie Cheffer, Auguste was a shy child and was extremely nearsighted. This condition would define much of his early life and because of it Auguste Rodin failed to excel in academia. However, he immediately found a passion for drawing and had his first art lesson at the age of ten.”artble

 “Born on November 12, 1815, in Johnstown, New York, Elizabeth Cady grew up amidst wealth and privilege, the daughter of Daniel Cady, a prominent judge, and Margaret Livingston. In 1826, the death of her brother Eleazar drove her to excel in every area her brother had in an attempt to compensate her father for his loss. She attended the progressive Troy Female Seminary, where she received the best education available for a young woman of the early 1830s. After her graduation in 1833, she became immersed in the world of reform at the home of her cousin Gerrit Smith. There she fell in love with the abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton.”Judith E. Harper, PBS

 Both 19th Century notables railed against tradition. Rodin “…was deeply inspired by tradition yet rebelled against its idealized forms, introducing innovative practices that paved the way for modern sculpture. He believed that art should be true to nature, a philosophy that shaped his attitudes to models and materials.”Rodin Museum   Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a more controversial rebel and historians have documented that her stance on the rights of the enslaved weren’t as important as her belief in the right for women to vote, especially women of her rank and upbringing. Historian, Lori Ginzburg has written that, “She (Stanton) certainly claimed that she fought for the rights of all women. She fought to end the barriers that denied America citizens their rights purely on the basis of sex, and she demanded rights that not one of us would be willing to give up. I mean, she demanded — in the true liberal tradition — access to the mainstream of American society in terms of professions, education, law, politics, property and so on. But when she said ‘women,’ I think … that she primarily had in mind women much like herself: white, middle-class, culturally if not religiously protestant, propertied, well-educated. And my disagreement with Stanton is that she … came to see women like herself as more deserving of rights than other people.”NPR

Both Stanton and Rodin opened up dialogues and forged concrete avenues that continue to reverberate in the 21st Century on: individuality, conformity, nonconformity, free will, expression and the individual’s right to free expression.


4 thoughts on ““Je Pense Donc Je Suis”-Rene Descartes

  1. It’s always a bit sad to find that those who have fought fearlessly for progress had human flaws and limitations. Elizabeth Cady Stanton is a good case in point. And Frederick Douglass effectively focused most of his efforts on ending slavery and pushing for the rights of black men. I know I am always impatient, wanting a better world in all ways! Yet we know that is not very likely, and we may in fact need to concentrate our energy on the concerns that seem most important, and/or most feasible in our time.

    And it is also hard for any of us to escape all the cultural assumptions and prejudices we have absorbed through our lives. Even when we know better, such attitudes can be very sneaky. I find that’s one of the endless things I’m still working on. It ain’t easy! Of course, I may just have too little character … but I suspect I’m just pretty human.

    Maybe it helps to remember George Eliot’s observation, “The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.” Or women either. My main qualification as a progressive — being imperfect!

    Thanks for a fine post, Ilene. – Linda

  2. Briliant post – I love how you linked the two – Stanton and Rodin. And yes, unfortunately the claim that Stanton fought for the rights of women in her own class (and race) is sadly one that has been leveled at many leading feminists (Betty Friedan and The Feminine Mystique comes to mind). However, when it’s all said and done these women did help spearhead invaluable waves of feminism – waves that brought about huge change in the circumstances of all women. It’s a bit like studying Anthropology – itself a child of Colonialism, Imperialism, etc. Too long to get into here, but one of the things I had to come to terms with early on in my education was whether or not we throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater… and in short – no. Which is why your final comment: “George Eliot’s observation, “The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.” Or women either. My main qualification as a progressive — being imperfect!” is, in fact, perfect!

    • Wonderful comment, Thanks so much!!! It’s all true! Who among us is perfect, right? We have much to be thankful for in how these courageous women opened up eyes, doors and led the way for equal rights.

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