Throughout history women have made their mark in a wide variety of ways. Each Saturday I plan to highlight one of these remarkable women. There will be no limit to the areas of history that I may include; however as a guide I will look to the month of their birth, the month of their death or the month associated with their mark in history when I select them. Is there an outstanding women in history you would like me to include? I welcome your suggestions. You can access all the previous postings of these remarkable women from the menu at the top of my site.
Today an outstanding woman from the world of women’s and human rights. Meet Susan B. Anthony.
Oh, if I could but live another century and see the fruition of all the work for women! There is so much yet to be done.
Susan B. Anthony
Susan Brownell Anthony was an American social reformer and feminist who played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement and the anti-slavery movement.
- Born in Adams, Massachusetts on February 15, 1820.
- Parents were Daniel Anthony and Lucy Read
- She was the second oldest of seven children.
- Her family shared a passion for social reform.
- Her brothers Daniel and Merritt moved to Kansas to support the anti-slavery movement there. Merritt fought with John Brown against pro-slavery forces during the Bleeding Kansas crisis. Daniel eventually owned a newspaper and became mayor of Leavenworth.
- Her sister Mary became a public school principal in Rochester, and a woman’s rights activist.
Anthony’s early life was influenced by a father who was an abolitionist and a temperance advocate. Daniel Anthony was a Quaker but he had a difficult relationship with his traditionalist congregation. The church rebuked him for marrying a non-Quaker and then disowned him for allowing a dance school to operate in his home. He continued to attend Quaker meetings anyway and became even more radical in his beliefs. Lucy Anthony (Read) was not a Quaker but helped raise their children in a more tolerant version of her husband’s religious tradition. Their father encouraged them all, girls as well as boys, to be self-supporting, teaching them business principles and giving them responsibilities at an early age.
When Anthony was six years old, her family moved to Battenville, New York, where her father managed a large cotton mill. During the time period of 1830 to 1836, Miss Anthony attended The Friends’ Boarding School in the Black Hill section of Plainfield, Connecticut. The boarding school was run by The Reverend Doctor Rowland Greene, his wife Susanna & Master Doctor Benjamin Greene. When she was seventeen, Anthony was sent to a Quaker boarding school in Philadelphia, where she unhappily endured its severe atmosphere. She was forced to end her studies after one term because her family was financially ruined during an economic downturn known as the Panic of 1837. They were forced to sell everything they had at an auction, but they were rescued by her maternal uncle, who bought most of their belongings and restored them to the family. To assist her family financially, Anthony left home to teach at a Quaker boarding school.
In 1845, the family moved to a farm on the outskirts of Rochester, New York, purchased partly with the inheritance of Anthony’s mother. There they associated with a group of Quaker social reformers who had left their congregation because of the restrictions it placed on reform activities, and who in 1848 formed a new organization called the Congregational Friends. The Anthony farmstead soon became the Sunday afternoon gathering place for local activists, including Frederick Douglass, a former slave and a prominent abolitionist who became Anthony’s lifelong friend.
In 1846, moved to Canajoharie to be headmistress of the female department of the Canajoharie Academy.
While she lived away, a women’s rights convention was held at her family’s church in 1848, inspired by the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention, which was held two weeks earlier in a nearby town. Anthony’s parents and her sister Mary attended the Rochester convention and signed the Declaration of Sentiments that had been first adopted by the Seneca Falls Convention.
Away from Quaker influences for the first time in her life, at the age of 26 she began to replace her plain clothing with more stylish dresses, and she quit using “thee” and other forms of speech traditionally used by Quakers. She was interested in social reform, and she was distressed at being paid much less than men with similar jobs, but she was amused at her father’s enthusiasm over the Rochester women’s rights convention.
She later explained, “I wasn’t ready to vote, didn’t want to vote, but I did want equal pay for equal work.”
In 1849, the Canajoharie Academy closed so Anthony returned home and took over the operation of the family farm in Rochester so her father could devote more time to his insurance business. She worked at this task for a couple of years but found herself increasingly drawn to reform activity. With her parents’ support, she was soon fully engaged in reform work which she did for the rest of her life. She lived almost entirely on fees she earned as a speaker.
In 1851, she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who became her lifelong friend and co-worker in social reform activities, primarily in the field of women’s rights.
- In 1852, they founded the New York Women’s State Temperance Society after Anthony was prevented from speaking at a temperance conference because she was a woman.
- In 1863, they founded the Women’s Loyal National League, which conducted the largest petition drive in the nation’s history up to that time, collecting nearly 400,000 signatures in support of the abolition of slavery.
- In 1866, they initiated the American Equal Rights Association, which campaigned for equal rights for both women and African Americans.
- In 1868, they began publishing a women’s rights newspaper called The Revolution.
- In 1869, they founded the National Woman Suffrage Association as part of a split in the women’s movement.
- In 1890 the split was formally healed when their organization merged with the rival American Woman Suffrage Association to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Anthony as its key force.
- In 1876, Anthony and Stanton began working with Matilda Joslyn Gage on what eventually grew into the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage.
- The interests of Anthony and Stanton diverged somewhat in later years, but the two remained close friends.
In 1872, Anthony was arrested for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York, and convicted in a widely publicized trial. Although she refused to pay the fine, the authorities declined to take further action.
In 1878, Anthony and Stanton arranged for Congress to be presented with an amendment giving women the right to vote. Popularly known as the Anthony Amendment, it became the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.
Anthony traveled extensively in support of women’s suffrage, giving as many as 75 to 100 speeches per year and working on many state campaigns. She worked internationally for women’s rights, playing a key role in creating the International Council of Women, which is still active. She also helped to bring about the World’s Congress of Representative Women at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
When she first began campaigning for women’s rights, Anthony was harshly ridiculed and accused of trying to destroy the institution of marriage. Public perception of her changed radically during her lifetime, however. Her 80th birthday was celebrated in the White House at the invitation of President William McKinley. She became the first non fictitious woman to be depicted on U.S. currency when her portrait appeared on the 1979 dollar coin.