I. Susan B. Anthony : A Biographical Introduction
Susan Brownell Anthony was born on February 15, 1820 in
Adams, Massachusetts to Daniel and Lucy Anthony. Susan was
the second born of eight children in a strict Quaker family.
Her father, Daniel Anthony, was said to have been a stern
man, a Quaker Abolitionist and a cotton manufacturer born
near the conclusion of the eighteenth century. From what I
read, he believed in guiding his children, not in
‘directing’ them. Daniel Anthony did not allow his
offspring to experience the childish amusements of toys,
games, and music, which were seen as distractions from the
inner light. Instead he enforced self-discipline,
principled convictions, and the belief in one’s own
Each of my sources indicates that Susan was a precocious
child and she learned to read and write at the age of three.
In 1826, the Anthonys moved from Massachusetts to
Battensville, New York where Susan attended a district
school. When the teacher refused to teach Susan long
division, Susan was taken out of school and taught in a
home school set up by her father. The school was run by a
woman teacher, Mary Perkins. Perkins offered a new image of
womanhood to Susan and her sisters. She was independent and
educated and held a position that had traditionally been
reserved to young men. Ultimately, Susan was sent to
boarding school near Philadelphia. She taught at a female
academy and Quaker boarding school, in upstate New York from
1846-49. Afterwards, she settled in her
family home in Rochester, New York. It was here that she
began her first public crusade on behalf of temperance
II. The Struggle for Women’s Rights
Susan B. Anthony’s first involvement in the world of
reform was in the temperance movement. This was one of the
first expressions of original feminism in the United States
and it dealt with the abuses of women and children who
suffered from alcoholic husbands. The first women’s rights
convention had taken place in Seneca Falls, New York, in
July of 1848. The declaration that emerged was modeled after
the Declaration of Independence. Written by Elizabeth Cady
Stanton, it claimed that all men and women are created
equal and that the history of mankind is a history of
repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward
woman (Harper, 1993, vol. 1). Following a long list of
grievances were resolutions for equitable laws, equal
educational and job opportunities, and the right to vote.
One year later in 1849, Susan B. Anthony gave her first
public speech for the Daugters of Temperance and then
helped to found the Woman’s State Temperance Society of New
York, one of the first such organizations of its time.
In 1851, she went to Syracuse to attend a series of
anti-slavery meetings. During this time Susan met Elizabeth
Stanton in person, became fast friends, and
subsequently joined her and another woman named Amelia
Bloomer in campaigns for women’s rights. In 1854, she
devoted herself to the anti-slavery movement serving from
1856 to the outbreak of the civil war in 1861. Here, Susan
B. Anthony served as an agent for the American Anti-slavery
Society. Afterwards, she collaborated with Stanton and
published the New York liberal weekly, The Revolution.
(from 1868-70) which called for equal pay for women (Harper,
1993, vols. 1 & 2).
In 1872, Susan demanded that women be given the same
civil and political rights that had been extended to black
males under the 14th and 15th amendments. Thus, she led a
group of women to the polls in Rochester to test the right
of women to vote. She was arrested two weeks later and while
awaiting trial, engaged in highly publicized lecture tours
and in March 1873, she tried to vote again in city
elections. After being tried and convicted of violating the
voting laws, Susan succeeded in her refusal to pay the fine
of one hundred dollars. From then on- she campaigned
endlessly for a federal woman suffrage amendment through the
National Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) (from 1869-90)
and the National American Woman Suffrage Association (from
1890-1906) and by lecturing throughout the country as well
III. After Anthony : The Struggle Continues
The struggle to eventually win the vote was a slow and
frustrating one. Wyoming Territory in 1869, Utah Territory
in 1870, and the states of Colorado in 1893 and Idaho in
1896 granted women the vote but the Eastern states still
resisted it. The woman-suffrage amendment to the Federal
Constitution, presented to every Congress since 1878,
repeatedly failed to pass.
Over a generation later, when the United States entered
World War I in April 1917, the NAWSA pledged its support.
Thousands of suffragists folded bandages in their local
headquarters and volunteered to work in hospitals and
government offices. The suffrage leaders hoped that after
the war American women would be rewarded with the vote for
their patriotic efforts.
Some feminist leaders split with the NAWSA over its
support of the war. Another woman named Alice Paul led the
Congressional Union for Women’s Suffrage, later called the
National Woman’s party, in agitating for the vote during the
war. Another group, the New York branch of the Woman’s
Peace party, led by a woman named Crystal Eastman, refused
to support the war to make the world safe for democracy
when American women did not have democratic rights. The
national Woman’s Peace party, headed by Jane Addams,
supported a peace settlement but did not openly oppose the
war (Meyer, 1987).
Congress finally did pass the women’s suffrage bill in
June 1919, and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution became
law on August 26 of 1920. With that one occurrence,
approximately twenty-five million women had won the right
to vote (Meyer, 1987). Following the suffrage victory,
NAWSA members transferred their allegiance to the newly
created League of Women Voters, a non-partisan organization
dedicated to educating women on political issues. The
National Woman’s party worked toward an amendment to the
Constitution providing complete equality of rights for
women. The Woman’s Peace party became affiliated with
another pacifist group, the Women’s International League for
Peace and Freedom.
In Great Britain, as in the United States, woman-suffrage
workers divided into two camps–the moderate National Union
of Women’s Suffrage Societies and the militant Women’s
Social and Political Union, led by Emmeline Pankhurst and
her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. A bill conferring
suffrage on women over 30 was passed by the British
Parliament in 1918. Ten years later the age limit was
lowered to 21. Meanwhile, New Zealand had granted full
suffrage in 1893, and Australia in 1902. Women had won full
suffrage in Finland in 1906 and in Norway in 1913 and were
voting in most countries by the time World War II broke out.
In 1945, Japanese women also received the right to vote.
Women voted for the first time in France in 1945. Women in
Italy won the right to vote one year later in 1946.
IV. Conclusive Remarks
Susan B. Anthony, along with Stanton and Matilda Joslyn
Gage had published The History of Woman Suffrage (in four
volumes released from 1881-1902) In 1888, she organized the
International Council of Women and in 1904 the International
Woman Suffrage Alliance (Harper, 1993, vol. 3). Although
Anthony did not live to see the consummation of her efforts
to win the right to vote for women, the establishment of the
19th amendment is deeply owed to her efforts.
Susan B. Anthony died of natural causes in 1906 but as
was indicated within the previous section, her dreams
certainly did not die with her. Anthony is known to have
always acknowledged Stanton as the founder of the women’s
rights movement. Her own achievement lay in her inspiration
and perseverance in bringing together vast numbers of people
of both sexes around the single goal of the vote.
Because of Aunt Susan’s love for women’s rights and
perseverance in her cause, women today undeniably enjoy a
great many more rights and privileges than those of the
previous century. For one hundred years ago, a woman was
ruled by a government and a law in which she had no voice
and no say. If she felt herself wronged in any way, shape,
or form- she had no way of making the fact known to the law,
or no way in which she might suggest a remedying solution
for it. It was an unheard of thing for a woman to speak out
in public. None of the nation’s colleges or universities
admitted women as students. Females were barred from nearly
profitable employments, and in those that we were permitted
to pursue, women received only one quarter of the man’s
compensation for the same work; females could never become
not become a doctor or lawyer, or, – except within the
Society of Friends, – a minister (Lutz, 1976).
If she was married any wages she might earn were not
hers, but must be handed by the employer to her husband, who
was in every way her master, the law even giving him the
power to chastise or punish her. The laws of divorce were so
framed as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women,
in every case the man always gaining the control of the
children- even if he were the offender in the case. A father
could apprentice his children without the leave of the
mother, and at his death could appoint a guardian for them,
thereby taking them from the mother’s control. Man
endeavored in every way possible to destroy woman’s
confidence in her powers, to lessen her self-respect and to
make her willing to lead a dependent, subservient life. It
really seemed as if man had assumed the powers of the Lord
himself in claiming it as his right to tell woman what she
might or might not do, and what was or was not her place.
For more than half a century, Susan B. Anthony had
fought for change in the form of women’s rights. According
to my research, many people rudely made fun of her. Some
insulted her. Nevertheless, she traveled from county to
county in New York and other states making speeches and
organizing clubs for women’s rights.
She pleaded her cause with every president from Abraham
Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt. On July 2, 1979, the U.S.
Mint appropriately honored her work by issuing the
well-known Susan B. Anthony dollar coin (Barry, 1988).
Anthony, Katherine S. Susan B. Anthony : Her Personal
History and Era.
Re-Printed in 1975.
Barry, K., Susan B. Anthony. Printed in 1988.
Harper, I. H., The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony,
3 vols. 1898-1908; reprinted in 1993.
Lutz, Alma, Susan B. Anthony. Reprinted in 1976.
Meyer, Donald., Sex and Power : The Rise of Women All Oeer
Printed in 1987.