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Make the Slave's Case Our Own

  • “Make the Slave's Case Our Own,” Speech by Susan B. Anthony, ca. 1859
In this speech Susan B. Anthony, argued for the abolition of slavery in America and urged American women to push for their own rights.
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    Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 1865
  • Petition from the women of Augusta
    Petition from “females of the County of Augusta” to the General Assembly, January 19, 1832
  • Philadelphia Abolitionists with Lucretia Mott
    A Group of Philadelphia Abolitionists with Lucretia Mott, Photograph, 1851
  • The Negro Woman's Appeal
    The Negro Woman's Appeal to Her White Sisters, ca. 1850
  • Susan B. Anthony's <em>Uncle Tom's Cabin</em>
    Susan B. Anthony's Copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1874
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“Make the Slave's Case Our Own,” Speech by Susan B. Anthony, ca. 1859

The famous reformer and activist Susan B. Anthony wrote this speech about 1859. Its main purpose is to discuss slavery in America and argue for its end. One of many women involved in the American abolition movement, Anthony also used the oppression of enslaved people to rally for woman's rights.

This speech presented the facts of slavery—that millions of African American men, women, and children were enslaved and considered property. Anthony then linked the circumstances of enslaved African Americans to that of American women. Like slaves, women were oppressed and had no freedom. Anthony urged her female listeners to “make the slave's case our own.” She went on to say “let us feel . . . that is it our own backs bared to the slave driver's lash, . . . that it is our own children, that are ruthlessly torn from our yearning mother hearts.”

There were many women like Anthony who made the transition from the abolition movement to the woman's rights movement. In many ways, abolitionism created the woman's rights movement. While campaigning for abolition, women spent much time discussing and pondering the meaning of American liberty, freedom, and democracy. Those women realized that they, too, were oppressed and that they could also benefit from many of the reforms for which they fought. Furthermore, their involvement in abolitionism prepared them to struggle for woman's rights. They became proficient in public speaking and debating and also experienced public scorn and ridicule. The idea of promoting woman's rights was extremely controversial. Even when antislavery organizations began, women were not allowed to join, and they had to form their own. Many people considered it inappropriate for women to enter public discussions and address audiences of men. Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, women's discussions and speeches, like Anthony's, not only advocated abolition but also woman's rights. After the Civil War when the Fifteenth Amendment was passed without including women in the electorate, Anthony's extreme disappointment led her to break her association with freedpeople's rights groups.

For Educators

Questions

1. From what reform movement did the woman suffrage movement emerge?

2. What type of argument does Anthony use in her speech? Is it convincing?

3. How did abolitionism prepare activists for the woman's rights movement?

Further Discussion

1. Compare this speech, which was written after the Seneca Falls Convention, with the Declaration of Sentiments. What similarities in language and purpose can you see?

Links

The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History & Culture

American Women: A Gateway to Library of Congress Resources for the Study of Women's History and Culture in the United States

Library of Congress Bibliographic Information-Make the Slave's Case Our Own

Suggested Reading

Parker, Alison M. “The case for Reform Antecedents.” In Votes for Women: The Struggle for Suffrage Revisited. Edited by Jean H. Baker, 21–41. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

We are assembled here, this evening, for the purpose of discussing the question of American Slavery: - - The startling fact that there are in these United States, under the sanction of this professedly Christian, Republican Government, nearly four millions of human beings now clanking the chains of slavery. – Four millions of men and women and children, who are owned like horses and cattle, - and bought and sold in the market. – Four millions of thinking, acting, conscious beings, like ourselves, driven to unpaid toil, from the rising to the setting of the sun, through the weary. . . .*