Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Susan B. Anthony 1820 ~ 1906

 


Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony, according to Mrs. Stanton, was born at the foot of the Green Mountains, South Adams, Massachusetts, February 15, 1820. Her father, Daniel Anthony, was a stern Quaker; her mother, Lucy Read, a Baptist, but being liberal and progressive in their tendency they were soon one in their religion. In girlhood years Miss Anthony attended Quaker meetings with aspirations toward high-seat dignity, but this was modified by the severe treatment accorded the father, who, having been publicly reprimanded twice, the first time for marrying a Baptist, the second for wearing a comfortable coat with a large cape, was finally expelled from "meeting" because he allowed the use of one of his rooms for the instruction of a class in dancing, in order that the youth might not be subjected to the temptations of a liquor-selling public house.

Miss Anthony's father was a cotton manufacturer, and the first dollar she ever earned was in his factory, for, though a man of wealth, the idea of self-support was early impressed on all the daughters of the family. Later, after their removal to Rochester, she became a teacher and fifteen years of her life were passed in teaching school in different parts of the state of New York. Although superintendents gave her credit for the best disciplined schools and the most thoroughly taught scholars in the county, yet they paid her eight dollars a month, while men received from twenty-four to thirty dollars. After fifteen years of great labor and the closest economy she had saved but three hundred dollars. This experience taught her the lesson of woman's rights. She became an active member of the New York State Teachers' Association and in their conventions made many effective pleas for higher wages and for the recognition of the principle of equal rights for women in all the honors and responsibilities of the association. The women teachers from Maine to Oregon owe Miss Anthony a debt of gratitude for the improved conditions they hold to-day. Miss Anthony had been from a child deeply interested in the subject of temperance.

In 1847, she joined the Daughters of Temperance, and in 1852 organized the New York State Women's Temperance Association, the first open temperance organization of women. Of this Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was president. As secretary, Miss Anthony for several years gave her earnest efforts to the temperance cause, but she soon saw that woman was utterly powerless to change conditions without the ballot and from 1852 she became one of the leading spirits in every women's rights convention, and was acting secretary and general agent for the suffrage organization for many years. She left others to remedy individual wrongs while she devoted herself to working for the weapon by which she believed women might be able to do away with the producing causes. She used to say she had "no time to dip out vice with a teaspoon, while the wrongly adjusted forces of society are pouring it in by the bucketful." From 1857 to 1866 Miss Anthony was also an agent and faithful worker in the anti-slavery cause. She has, moreover, been untiring in her efforts to secure liberal legislation, now enjoyed by the women in the state of New York.

The most harassing, though probably the most satisfactory, enterprise Miss Anthony ever undertook was the publication for three years of a weekly paper, The Revolution. This formed an epoch in the woman's rights movement and roused widespread interest in the question. Ably edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Parker Pillsbury, with the finest intellects of the nation among its contributors, and rising immediately to a recognized position among the papers of the nation, there was no reason why it should not have been a financial success, save that Miss Anthony's duties kept her almost entirely from the lecture field After three years of toil and worry, and the accumulation of a debt of ten thousand dollars, Miss Anthony set bravely about the task of earning money to pay the debt. Every cent of this was duly met from the earnings of her lectures.

The most dramatic event of Miss Anthony's life was her arrest and trial for voting at the presidential election of 1872. Owing to the mistaken advice of her counsel, who was unwilling that she should be imprisoned, she gave bonds which prevented her taking her case to the Supreme Court, a fact she always regretted. When asked by the judge, "You voted as a woman did you not?" She replied, "No sir, I voted as a citizen of the United States." The date and place of trial being set, Miss Anthony thoroughly canvassed her county so as to make sure that all of the jurors were instructed in citizens' rights. And yet, at the trial, after the argument had been presented, the judge took the case out of their hands, saying, "It is a question of law and not of fact," and he pronounced Miss Anthony guilty, fining her a hundred dollars and costs. She said to the judge, "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God, and I shall never pay a penny of this unjust claim," and she gloried in the fact that she never did.

Miss Anthony was always in great demand on the platform, and she had probably lectured in every city that can be marked. She made constitutional arguments before Congressional Committees, and spoke impromptu to assemblies in all sorts of places. Whether it was a good word in introducing a speaker, or a short speech to awaken a convention, or the closing appeal to set people to work, or, again, the full hour address of argument or helpful talk at suffrage meetings she always said just the right thing and never wearied her audience. A fine sense of humor pervaded her arguments, and often by reductio ad absurdum she disarmed and won her opponents.

Moreover, a wonderful memory which carried the legislative history of each state, the formation and progress of political parties, the parts played by prominent men in our national life, and whatever has been done the world over to ameliorate conditions for women, made Miss Anthony a genial and instructive companion while her unfailing sympathy made her as good a listener as talker. The change in public sentiment toward woman suffrage was well indicated by the change which came in the popular estimate of Miss Anthony. Where once it was the fashion of the press to ridicule and jeer it came to pass that the best men on the papers were sent to interview her. Society, too, threw open its doors, and into many distinguished gatherings she carried the refreshing breadth of sincerity and earnestness. Her seventieth birthday, celebrated by the National Woman's Suffrage Association, of which she was vice-president at large, from its formation in 1869 until its convention in 1892, when she was elected president, was the occasion of a spontaneous outburst of gratitude, which is without any doubt unparalleled in the history of any living woman. Miss Anthony is truly one of the most heroic figures in American History, and her death in 1906 was the occasion of national sorrow.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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