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Susan B. Anthony

SUSAN B. ANTHONY (1820–1906)

Susan B. Anthony, head-and-shoulders portrait, [facing left] 1 photographic print on cabinet card. Harris & Ewing, photographer. Mary Church Terrell Papers. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c11423

Susan Brownell Anthony was born on February 15, 1820, in Adams, Massachusetts. She was educated at a Quaker school near Philadelphia but had to leave before finishing the coursework to help support her family in New York. She taught for the next decade, an experience which led her later to champion equal pay for women workers. In 1845 she moved with her family to Rochester. In 1849 she quit teaching to run her father's farm and soon began making friends with the local women reformers and abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass.

Anthony met Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851 and in 1852 they founded the Women's New York State Temperance Society which advocated woman's rights to vote, temperance, and the right for women to divorce drunken husbands. Throughout the next decade, Anthony and Stanton advocated tirelessly for woman's rights in New York. Tied to home by her growing family, Stanton wrote speeches and arguments, while Anthony traveled and organized.

During the Civil War as women's advocacy groups devoted their resources to abolition, Anthony and Stanton founded the Women's Loyal National League in 1863 to organize women and educate them about abolition. With the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, Anthony turned her attention to universal suffrage. She ended her association with freedpeople's rights groups when the Fifteenth Amendment granted the right to vote to African American men but not to women.

In 1869 Anthony and Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. In 1872 Anthony joined a group of women in Rochester to cast ballots on election day. She was arrested within weeks and convicted of violating federal law, but she never paid the fine. In 1876 Anthony revived the campaign for a constitutional amendment for woman suffrage. The fight consumed her for the next decade. She continued her vigorous schedule of lecturing, petitioning, and organizing. Her fame grew and she slowly used her celebrity status to gain access to other women's groups and organizations.

After two years of hostile negotiating, the National Women Suffrage Association merged in 1890 with the American Woman Suffrage Association, whose platform had advocated for achieving woman's rights on the state level. Two years later she replaced Stanton as the president of the combined National-American Woman Suffrage Association. The respect that younger members had for Anthony was instrumental in holding the organization together through her eight-year presidency, which spanned some of the most difficult years for the organization. The members' interests changed and their attention turned to other matters while resources dwindled. Anthony reduced her travel and lecturing significantly beginning in 1890, when she set up housekeeping with her sister, but she continued her public appearances until a month before her death on March 13, 1906, in Rochester, New York.

Suggested Reading:

Barry, Kathleen. Susan B. Anthony: A Biography of a Singular Feminist. New York: New York University Press, 1988.

DuBois, Ellen Carol. Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1849. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1978.

DuBois, Ellen Carol. Woman Suffrage and Women's Rights. New York: New York University Press, 1998.

Gordon, Ann D.. ed. The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1997.

Sherr, Lynn. Failure is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words. New York: Random House, 1995.

Wellman, Judith. “The Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention: A Study of Social Networks.” Journal of Women's History 3 (Spring 1991): 9–37.

Related Links:

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Papers Project

PBS: Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony