Susan B. Anthony

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Susan Brownell Anthony, aged 28
Susan Brownell Anthony, aged 28
Susan Brownell Anthony
Susan Brownell Anthony

Susan Brownell Anthony, (February 15, 1820March 13, 1906) was an American civil rights leader who, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, led the effort to secure Women's suffrage in the United States.

She was born in Adams, Massachusetts, the daughter of Quakers. Soon after her birth, the Anthony family moved to the state of New York, and after 1845 she lived in Rochester, New York. While in Rochester, she attended the Unitarian Church.

She received her early education in a school her father ran for his and neighbors' children, and from the age of 17 to 32 she herself taught in various schools. In the decade preceding the outbreak of the American Civil War, she took a prominent part in the anti-slavery and temperance movements in New York, organizing in 1852 the first woman's state temperance society in America, and becoming in 1856 the agent for New York state of the American Anti-Slavery Society.

After 1854 she devoted herself almost exclusively to the agitation for women's rights, and became recognized as one of the ablest and most zealous advocates of the complete legal equality of the two sexes, and as a public speaker and writer. She was also active in zealously opposing abortion, then seen as an imposition of men onto women. From 1868 to 1870 she was the proprietor of a weekly paper, The Revolution, published in New York City, edited by Stanton, and having as its motto:

"The true republic — men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less."

For casting a vote in the presidential election held on November 5, 1872, as she asserted the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution entitled her to do, she was served a warrant on November 18 and was eventually fined $100 June 18, 1873, but she never paid the fine. She was defended at trial by Matilda Joslyn Gage, who asserted that it was the United States that was truly on trial, not Anthony.

In collaboration with Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper, she published The History of Woman Suffrage (4 vols., New York, 18841887). Susan B. Anthony was also a friend of Josephine Brawley Hughes, an advocate of women's rights and of alcohol abolition from Arizona. She died at Rochester, New York, on March 13, 1906 and is buried there in Mount Hope Cemetery. Anthony is known as "The Mother of us all."

She was vice-president-at-large of the National Woman's Suffrage Association (NWSA) from the date of its organization in 1869 until 1892, when she became president. In 1890 she orchestrated the merger of the NWSA with the more conservative American Woman Suffrage Association, creating the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Her pursuit of alliances with conservative suffragists created a tension between herself and more radical suffragists such as her longtime friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

The controversial merger occurred after Anthony created a special National Woman Suffrage Association executive committee to decide whether they should unite with the AWSA (using a committee instead of a full NWSA vote went against the NWSA constitution). Joslyn Gage (a prominent figure who opposed the merger) was denied funds to enable her to attend the NWSA convention leading to these decisions, motions to make it possible for members to vote by mail were strenuously opposed by Anthony and her adherents, and the committee was stacked with members who favoured the merger (two who decided against it were asked to resign).

The union marginalized radical elements of the movement, including Cady Stanton. Anthony pushed for Stanton to be voted in as the first NAWSA president, and stood by her as Stanton was belittled by the large conservative factions within the new organisation.

Anthony's strategy for suffrage was to unite the suffrage movement where possible, and to focus on the goal of gaining the vote, leaving aside other women's rights issues. Cady Stanton criticized this stance, writing that Anthony and AWSA member Lucy Stone "see suffrage only. They do not see woman's religious and social bondage." Anthony argued to Cady Stanton,

"We number over 10,000 women and each one has opinions...we can only hold them together to work for the ballot by letting alone their whims and prejudices on other subjects."

In the early years of the NWSA, Anthony made attempts to unite women in the labor movement with the suffragist cause, but with little success. Along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she was a delegate at the 1868 convention of the National Labor Union. Anthony alienated the labor movement not only because suffrage was seen as a concern for middle-class rather then working women, but because she openly encouraged women to achieve economic independence by entering the printing trades, where male workers were on strike. Anthony was part of the National Labor Union for a while but then was expelled over this controversy.

Susan B. Anthony was honored as the first real (non-allegorical) woman on circulating U.S. coinage in 1979 with her appearance on the Anthony dollar.

She was very self-conscious, both of her looks (one eye always pointed slightly outwards) and of her speaking abilities. She long resisted public speaking for fear her speech would not be good enough.

Susan B. Anthony in her later years.
Susan B. Anthony in her later years.


  • Mrs Ida Husted Harper's Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony (3 vols., Indianapolis, 1898-1908)

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