Susan Brownell Anthony
• Campaigned for the Abolishment of Slavery
• Educational Reformer
• Women’s Rights Activist
• Labor Activist
• Active in the Temperance Movement
To appreciate all that Susan Brownell Anthony actually accomplished in her lifetime you have to understand the time period in which she was born.
Susan was born on February 15, 1820, in Adams, Massachusetts to a Quaker family. Her role of activist was formed quite early I believe with having a non-traditionalist Quaker father of strong beliefs in equality. Led early on by her fathers non-traditionalist Quaker views, Susan developed a strong value system of her own in regard to what was right and wrong. Suffering of others, including her own gender, were intolerable to her and instead of talking about inequalities she put herself out in the forefront of the fight.
Susan B. Anthony and her family moved to Rochester, New York in 1845. Her family were strong supporters of anti-slavery movement with the Anthony family holding meetings almost every Sunday where they were sometimes joined by Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison.
In 1863, Susan B. Anthony and her friend, Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the Woman’s National Loyal League to petition for the Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery. They went further to petition for the Fourteenth (Granting citizenship to everyone born in the U.S. and protects the civil and political liberties of all Americans) and Fifteenth (guarantee’s the right to vote regardless of race) amendments. To Anthony’s and Stanton’s disappointment women were excluded from these amendments.
Little known is Anthony had newspaper called “The Revolution,” that she began publishing in Rochester 1868, where she attacked lynchings and racial prejudice in other Rochester newspapers in the 1890s.
At age 26, Anthony took a teaching position at a girls’ academy in 1846. Her wage was $110 a year.
In 1859 at the state’s teachers’ convention she called for equality for women in other professions and better wage.
In addition to the above she called for women to have more of a voice in convention activities and to assume actual committee positions.
Susan B. Anthony called for equality in education for all, regardless of race or gender.
By 1890s Anthony served on the board of trustees of the Rochester State Industrial School. She campaigned for coeducation, equality and opportunities for boys and girls. She also raised $50,000 in pledges to ensure the admittance of women to the University of Rochester. That and cashing in her personal life insurance policy to get more cash to add to pledges, the University was forced to make good on promise to add women should the pledges be met. The University was obligated to make good on their agreement and women were admitted to the University for the first time in 1900.
Woman’s Rights Activist
As a Woman’s Rights Advocate, Anthony began by campaigning for women’s property rights in New York State, which during that time period were almost nonexistent. By 1860, primarily to her due to her tireless fight became law. The New York State Married Women’s Property Bill finally allowed married women to own property, keep their own wages, and have custody of their children. In addition, in 1875 she attacked the “social evil” of prostitution in a Chicago speech, but not for the reason you think. Her reasoning was to call for more equality for women in marriage, the workplace, and at the ballot box. It was her belief that these fundamental rights would eliminate the need for women to work the streets.
The Revolution, Anthony’s newspaper, advocated an 8 hour work day and equal pay for equal work in 1868. She promoted the policy of purchasing American-made goods, encouraged immigration to rebuild the South after the war and to settle the entire country.
In 1868 she encouraged working women to form a Working Women’s Association. The reasoning was women who worked in the printing and sewing trades in New York were excluded from the unions for these trades. In turn, during the printers strike in New York, she encouraged employers to hire women in the printing trade, hoping that the industry would see women could do the job as well as men, and therefore deserved equal pay. In a turnabout the Typographical Union accused her of strike-breaking and running a non-union shop at her newspaper, The Revolution, and further called her an enemy of labor.
It is interesting to note had they let women in the unions originally, their accusations would have been mute.
As a Quaker, Anthony’s family believed drinking liquor was sinful, but her support of this movement was not only owed to her religious upbringing, but also to how it families were destroyed by the effects of alcoholism.
Anthony and Stanton sited a case where a woman named Abby McFarland divorced her abusive and drunken husband only to lose her second husband when her ex-husband shot and killed the current man she was married to. It did not end there, Abby’s ex-husband was acquitted of the murder on a plea of temporary insanity and then given custody of their son.
The Temperance Society’s goal was to petition the state for a law limiting the sale of liquor, they even had a petition with 28,000 signatures but since they were from mostly women and children, the State Legislature rejected. Anthony knew the only way to get the attention of politicians was for women to have the right to vote.
In the end, the temperance group she and Stanton belonged to criticized them for promoting women’s rights over temperance issues. Anthony explained, “Women would need the vote to reach their goal.”
Both She and Stanton left the Women’s State Temperance Society in the 1870s and Anthony refused to support Prohibition because she believed it detracted attention from women’s rights.
Anthony continued her fight for women’s rights and started a campaign in her newspaper, The Revolution toward that goal. In 1868 the masthead of the paper read:
“Men their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less,” and the aim of establishing “justice for all.”
Susan B. Anthony campaigned tirelessly on this issue, going on speaking tours, gathering petitions from 26 states, even being arrested for trying to vote in Rochester before the women’s vote was legal. Between 1881 and 1885 Anthony, Stanton and Matilda Joslin Gage and Ida Husted Harper collaborated on and published a series of six books called the History of Woman Suffrage. (Click on the book title link to read it free at Google Books.)
In the end
Anthony tirelessly campaigned for women’s rights not only in the United States but also internationally. At age of 80, she retired from the National American Woman Suffrage Association organization and presided over two international counsels, one as honorary president of Carrie Chapman Catt’s International Woman Suffrage Alliance.
Susan B. Anthony passed away at her home on March 13, 1906. She never was able to see fulfillment of her dream where all women would obtain the same freedoms as males in our society.
Fourteen years later, in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment which she helped draft was finally added. It was known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.
On a personal note
My reason for doing this story came from childhood actually, when I was in 5th grade I was in a school play and guess who I was to be… you guessed it, Susan B. Anthony. At the time, I researched, wrote and memorized my lines for the play, but really did not appreciate then all that this woman actually accomplished and went through so “women” could receive the same freedoms that were promised as “We the People” but only half of the American population received.
In addition, Anthony’s fight against slavery brought about riots at her meetings where her effigy was dragged burning through the streets. Yet, she continued undaunted to fight not only the freedom of women but against slavery during the Civil War.
Women lived in slavery too and for much longer time than most races or male gender in America. It was a silent form of slavery whose roots were based in old European traditions and continued in America, even though the promise of freedom was supposed to be for all, women did not get to enjoy what America was supposed to stand for. Now before I’m criticized for being a “feminist” – I will tell you I don’t really care for the word, men that have issues they fight for are not called “malinists,” so the term really is sexist and degrading in my personal opinion. Fighting for the same freedoms as established by our country’s forefathers makes you an American!
I will sum up this article with Susan B. Anthony’s final public remark, and quite possibly a testament of her life, where she proclaimed, “Failure is impossible!”
Thank you, Miss Anthony for fighting my freedoms!
• Susan B. Anthony Museum & House
• Wikipedia: Susan B. Anthony
• Susan B. Anthony’s Obituary: New York Times