Susan B. Anthony
This Famous Person Game - May 2013
by Mike McLeod
Scott and Carolyn Brown of Memories Flea An'Tique Mall in Prattville, Ala., Cecile Sampson of Parrish, Fla., Sherron Lawson of Roswell, Ga., Ted Carlton of Las Vegas, Nev., and Julie Kimbrell of Old School Antique Mall in Sylva, N.C., correctly identified Susan B. Anthony.
Susan B. Anthony devoted her life to causes helping her fellow women and men. She is most famous for her work in the women’s suffrage movement, but while working as a teacher for 15 years, she began by advocating for equal pay for women. At the time in the teaching profession, a man was paid up to four times more than a woman. In the following years, she encouraged women to create labor organizations, and she campaigned for the right of women to be entitled to the pay they earned rather than it being the property of their husbands.
Property rights, both financial and physical, were extremely important for two reasons: women who sought divorces usually had their children taken from them because they had no means to support them; and owning property, land or homes, was a prerequisite for voting in many states, and women were not allowed to own property at that time. “Before married women's property acts were passed, upon marriage a woman lost any right to control property that was hers prior to the marriage, nor did she have rights to acquire any property during marriage. A married woman could not make contracts, keep or control her own wages or any rents, transfer property, sell property or bring any lawsuit.”1
In 1848, New York passed the Married Women's Property Act which gave many (but not all) rights to property to married women, not single women. In was not until 1900 when most women were given the right to own property.
Susan B. Anthony worked for the abolition of slavery beginning in her teen years. She also spent many years with the temperance movement. Initially, she did not consider herself eloquent enough to speak before assemblies, but public speaking and fundraising soon became her avocation.
“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.”
For much of her career, she averaged about 100 speeches per year.2
Anthony joined forces with another important woman in the suffrage movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and together they formed the National Women’s Suffrage Association in 1869. They also created a weekly newspaper, The Revolution, which advocated for the right to vote for women. Its motto was: “Men—their rights and nothing more; Women—their rights and nothing less.” The Revolution lasted for two years before being sold for $1 due to its high debts from Anthony paying women high wages to print it and because of her requirement that it be of high print quality.
Eventually, Anthony focused her efforts solely on suffrage, believing that the progress of all causes hinged on women first receiving the right to vote. Her staunch and unwavering dedication to women’s suffrage often put her at odds with those who opposed it—and sometimes with friends and supporters. For instance, before the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870—which gave the right to vote to citizens of all colors, but was interpreted to mean only black men and not black or white women—Anthony found herself on the opposite side of the issue from her friend Frederick Douglass. She opposed the amendment because of the interpretation, fearing women would not be granted the right to vote. Her fear was not unfounded; the19th Amendment was not ratified until 1920, 50 years after the 15th Amendment’s ratification.
In 1872, Anthony put the 15th Amendment to the test when she voted for president in a federal election in New York State. She was arrested by a federal marshal and put on trial. Ward Hunt, the presiding judge, did not allow Anthony to speak in her own defense, and he illegally required the jury to find her guilty, and she was. He sentenced her to a fine of $100.
Susan B. Anthony spoke out in protest against this judgment by saying in court: "May it please your honor, I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty. All the stock in trade I possess is a $10,000 debt, incurred by publishing my paper—The Revolution–four years ago, the sole object of which was to educate all women to do precisely as I have done, rebel against your manmade, unjust, unconstitutional forms of law, that tax, fine, imprison and hang women, while they deny them the right of representation in the government; and I shall work on with might and main to pay every dollar of that honest debt, but not a penny shall go to this unjust claim. And I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim, that ‘Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.’"
She never paid the fine, and the U.S. court never pursued her for it.
“The fact is, women are in chains, and their servitude is all the more debasing because they do not realize it.”
Born on Feb. 15, 1820 in Adams, Mass., Susan B. Anthony died on March 13, 1906 in Rochester, N.Y., of heart disease and pneumonia2 fourteen years before the passage of the 19th Amendment.
Before retiring from her work as an outspoken advocate for women’s suffrage, Susan B. Anthony stalwartly told her followers:
“Failure is impossible.”
1 About.com, “Women’s History.”
2 New York Times, obituary, March 13, 1906
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