Susan B. Anthony: Women Their Rights and Nothing Less

Susan B. Anthony: Women Their Rights and Nothing Less

Susan B. Anthony was born February 15, 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts, to a Hicksite Quaker family with long activist traditions... the second of seven children.  At an early age, she witnessed her father’s refusal to purchase cotton from slave labor.

The 1837 depression caused Daniel Anthony, her father, to declare bankruptcy and the family to lose the Battenville house.

They moved to Rochester, New York in 1845, becoming active in the antislavery movement. Their farm on what is now Brooks Avenue became a meeting-place for anti-slavery activists, including Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison.

Through her work as a teacher, Anthony quickly became aware of the wage gap between men and women in the profession. Having discovered the huge discrepancy in salary for male and female teachers—$10 a month versus $2.50 a month—she joined the teachers’ union to fight for equal wages.

On July 19, 1848, a group of women held a convention at Seneca Falls, New York. It was the first Women’s Rights Convention in the United States and began the Suffrage movement. A Declaration of Women's Right was proclaimed and signed by 100 participants.

In 1853, Anthony began to campaign for women's property rights in New York state, speaking at meetings, collecting signatures for petitions, and lobbying the state legislature. In 1860, largely as the result of her efforts, the New York State Married Women's Property Bill became law, allowing married women to own property, keep their own wages, and have custody of their children. Anthony and Stanton campaigned for more liberal divorce laws in New York.

In 1856, she became an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1863, Anthony and Stanton organized a Women's National Loyal League to support and petition for the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery. They went on to campaign for Black and women's full citizenship, including the right to vote, in the 14th and 15th Amendments.

With other activists, Stanton and Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association May 15, 1869. They opposed the 15th amendment because it excluded women.

In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women’s Right to Vote passed the House and Senate. Widely known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, “the right to vote shall not be denied on account of sex,” became the law of the United States. The woman suffrage bill not only gave women the right to vote, but also to sit on juries and to run for political office.

Wyoming had already passed the first woman suffrage law on December 10, 1869, and women voted for the first time in 1870.

Her activism began with abolitionism in the 1840s, but her frustration with the dominant male chauvinist culture of the 19th century United States moved her to adopt racist positions in the hopes of reaching her goal.

When Congress passed the 14th and 15th amendments, granting voting rights to African American men, Anthony and Stanton were angry and opposed the legislation because it did not include the right to vote for women.

The 14th Amendment recognized that those born into slavery were entitled to the same citizenship status and protections as free people. The amendment did not, however, grant universal access to the vote. A rift appeared among those, like Stanton and Anthony and Frederick Douglass, who had been allies in the fight for universal suffrage.

In 1869, Anthony said, "The old anti-slavery school say women must stand back and wait until the negroes shall be recognized. But we say, if you will not give the whole loaf of suffrage to the entire people, give it to the most intelligent first."

Many suffragists disagreed with Anthony, including Lucy Stone and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Lucy Stone led the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). The AWSA supported voting rights for African American people as part of their work for women's voting rights. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, herself a suffragist, spoke publicly in favor of the 15th Amendment (granting African American men the right to vote) as part of the larger push for suffrage.

From 1881 to 1885, Anthony joined Elizabeth Stanton and Matilda Gage in writing the History of Woman Suffrage. This work focused on white women suffragists and does not include any suffragists of color.

Anthony died March 13, 1906 of heart failure and pneumonia at her Rochester home 14 years before the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. She is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York.

Her image was chosen for the dollar coin created in 1979. She was the first woman pictured on U.S. money.

If Sally Ann knows more about weaving than Elijah, then why don’t you make her overseer?

Like this post? Stop by and read Sojourner Truth: A Quest for a More Equal Society for African Americans and Women.Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree around 1797 in New York to Mum Bett and Brom, the first enslaved African Americans freed under the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. During her lifetime, she supported the cause of the Underground Railroad, she provided needed clothing, blankets, food, and recruited African American soldiers for the Union’s only Black regiment during the Civil War.

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