This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting lessons learned from the book Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children. Read the intro post here.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was championing the cause for women’s rights well before women had many. She spent the better part of 50 years touring the country, organizing meetings, giving speeches, and generally working to inspire women to believe in themselves, stand up for themselves, and understand that they deserved more than they were being given.
In a letter to her daughter Margaret, Elizabeth illuminates the crux of her point when she instructs her daughter thusly:
Now, improve every hour and every opportunity, and fit yourself for a good teacher or professor, so that you can have money of your own and not be obliged to depend on any man for every breath you draw. The helpless dependence of women generally makes them the narrow, discontented beings that so many are.
This is obviously useful advice for a woman in the late 1800s, when so many women were completely dependent on men for nearly everything in their lives, but it’s really good advice for anyone.
Elizabeth is instructing her daughter to be self-reliant. In this day of age of so many middle class kids growing up with so much handed to them, and a built-in sense of entitlement in certain ways (yes, I’m looking at myself here), it is always good to be reminded of the importance of working towards self-reliance and of taking every possible opportunity to improve oneself.