Today is a great day in women’s history. Susan B. Anthony was born on this day, February 15, in 1820. In reading up on Anthony in order to publish this, it was interesting to learn about the parallels in personality and beliefs of activists, regardless of whether they were born in the 19th or 21st century.
Anthony was a prominent American civil rights leader who was instrumental in women’s rights, bringing women’s suffrage – the right to vote – into the United States. According to Wikipedia, “She was co-founder of the first Women’s Temperance Movement with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as President. She also co-founded the women’s rights journal, The Revolution.”
From a young age, Anthony was taught about women’s equality and rights. In 1826, at just six years old, she was sent to school and the teacher refused to teach her long division because of her gender. Upon learning of the sub-par education she was receiving, her father promptly had her placed in a group home school, where he taught Susan himself. From a young age Anthony was surrounded by role models who conveyed a progressive image of womanhood, further fostering her growing belief in women’s equality.
Prior to the Civil War, she took an active role in the New York anti-slavery movement. In 1850, after writing a speech for the first National Women’s Rights Convention, she devoted her life to women’s rights. In 1872 Anthony was arrested by a U.S. Deputy Marshal for voting in the 1872 Presidential Election two weeks earlier. She was registered as a Republican in the election where the GOP’s Ulysses S. Grant won re-election. In the subsequent trial before the Supreme Court, Justice Ward Hunt ordered the jury to return a guilty verdict. She was ordered to pay a $100 fine, which she never paid and had overturned by the US Congress in 1874. This injustice set Anthony out on speaking tours where she argued that women should be included in the emancipation amendment granting voting privileges to former slaves.
Anthony knew that women would eventually be given the right to vote. She said simply, “it will come, but I shall not see it…It is inevitable. We can no more deny forever the right of self-government to one-half our people than we could keep the Negro forever in bondage.” She died on March 13, 1906 at the age of 86. Fourteen years after Anthony’s death, women were given the right vote on August 26, 1920, by the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
I’m both inspired and embarrassed in writing this short summary of Susan B. Anthony’s incredible life. Inspired, that’s easy to see; we are living in a time where we still fight inequality and mindless prejudice. We celebrated seeing California’s Prop 8 overturned and I am confident that in my lifetime gay marriage will not only be legal, but accepted and celebrated without the social stigma we see today. Furthermore, I’m inspired by activists who passionately work to make changes every day for the betterment of our society.
I’m embarrassed because I knew so little about Susan B. Anthony. I knew her only as “the woman on the coin that looked like a quarter” and “having something to do with the right to vote.” Obviously, she is SO much more than that. As an educated woman who lives with (nearly) complete equality, I should acknowledge, be grateful to and be inspired by the extraordinary Susan B. Anthony!