Welcome to another post in the series “The Fairer Sex”. This is week five, we only have four more weeks. Here the list of topics again if you wanted to see them:
Week 1: Introduction
Week 2: Ancient Women
Week 3: Medieval Women
Week 4: Victorian Women
Week 5: Women’s Right To Vote: Susan B Anthony
Week 6: World War Women
Week 7: Modern Women
Week 8: Religion and Women
Week 9: Conclusion
Today’s subject is on Susan Brownell Anthony, or as she is more famously known: Susan B. Anthony. Susan was born on February 15th 1820 in Adams, MA. If you’ve studied your American History then you know that she is most famously known for winning the right for women to vote in 1920.
Susan came from a Quaker family that was committed to Social Equality. Susan’s father encouraged her and her siblings, regardless of sex, to be self-supporting, teaching them business principles and giving them responsibilities at an early age. Her family was also very politically active. Her family was involved in the Abolitionist and Temperance movements. When Susan was seventeen she collected Anti-Slavery Petitions.
Susan’s activism career began when she was a teacher from the age 17 to 29. During her time teaching, Susan discovered that men were being paid significantly more than women for doing the exact same job.While teaching in Canajoharie, New York, Susan saw that male teachers were being paid $10.00 per month (which would have been roughly $271.68 today) and female teachers were being paid $2.50 ($67.92 today). She joined The Teachers Union to fight for equal wages. even after she stopped teaching in 1853, she was still involved in the Teacher’s Union and in a convention she called for better pay, professional recognition, and deeper involvement of women in the movement.
But really her career began when she began to attend conventions for the Temperance movement in the New York State. In 1849, Susan became Secretary For Daughters Of Temperance, here is where she began to speak against alcohol abuse. But this was also where she met her life long friend: Elizabeth Stanton. Together they changed the world.
In a reversal of genders, a “bloomer” asks her fiancé’s shocked father for consent to marry her son: satirical cartoon from 1852 – Wikipedia
During this time there was an article of clothing that was made and made it’s most famous appearance at this point in time. Yes, I am speaking of the Bloomer. The Bloomer at first was just some clothing that was supposed to be a healthier alternative to the long, heavy dresses that women were wearing. But it quickly became a symbol for Women’s Rights, the Bloomer actually got it’s name from Amelia Bloomer, a suffragette and was the editor for the first newspaper for women called “The Lily”. She wrote in the newspaper that she had adopted the dress and explained how to make it. It was thus then dubbed Bloomer’s Dress.
For a while Susan and several suffragette wore bloomers but after a year she and her colleagues went back to more traditional clothing because they discovered people were paying more attention to their clothes then to their ideas.
In 1872, Susan was arrested for illegally voting the Presidential Election. According to “The Trial of Susan B. Anthony” by Ann D. Gordon it says this about the incident:
On November 5, 1872, in the first district of the Eighth Ward of Rochester, New York, Susan B. Anthony and fourteen other women voted in the United States election, which included the election for members of Congress. The women had successfully registered to vote several days earlier. A poll watcher challenged Anthony’s qualifi- cation as a voter. The inspectors of election took the steps required by state law when a challenge occurred: they asked Anthony under oath if she was a citizen, if she lived in the district, and if she had accepted bribes for her vote. Following her satisfactory answers to these questions, the inspectors placed her ballots in the boxes. The individuals at the polling place revealed the state and federal aspects of Anthony’s crime. Three inspectors of election, local men who also served as a board of registration for voters, enforced the election laws of New York, which allowed all white males and some black males to vote. Since ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, Congress had provided for new federal oversight of elections through several Enforcement Acts, primarily to ensure that all black men be allowed to vote despite state laws, but also to stop fraud and corruption in federal elections. Two federal supervisors of election oversaw the inspectors
The judge declared Susan guilty and charged her a $100 fine, which she never paid. Then the judge asked Susan if she had anything to say and why the sentence should not be pronounced on her.
Judge Hunt—(Ordering the defendant to stand up), Has the prisoner anything to say why sentence shall not be pronounced?
Miss Anthony—Yes, your honor, I have many things to say; for in your ordered erdict of guilty, you have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored. Robbed of the fundamental privilege of citizenship, I am degraded from the status of a citizen to that of a subject; and not only myself individually, but all of my sex, are, by your honor’s verdict, doomed to political subjection under this, so-called, form of government. Judge Hunt—Th e Court cannot listen to a rehearsal of arguments the prisoner’s counsel has already consumed three hours in presenting.
Miss Anthony—May it please your honor, I am not arguing the question, but simply stating the reasons why sentence cannot, in justice, be pronounced against me. Your denial of my citizen’s right to vote, is the denial of my right of consent as one of the governed, the denial of my right of representation as one of the taxed, the denial of my right to a trial by a jury of my peers as an offender against law, therefore, the denial of my sacred rights to life, liberty, property and—
Judge Hunt—The Court cannot allow the prisoner to go on.
Miss Anthony—But your honor will not deny me this one and only poor privilege of protest against this high-handed outrage upon my citizen’s rights. May it please the Court to remember that since the day of my arrest last November, this is the first time that either myself or any person of my disfranchised class has been allowed a word of defense before judge or jury—
Judge Hunt—The prisoner must sit down—the Court cannot allow it.
Miss Anthony—All of my prosecutors, from the 8th ward corner grocery politician, who entered the complaint, to the United States Marshal, Commissioner, District Attorney, District Judge, your honor on the bench, not one is my peer, but each and all are my political sovereigns; and had your honor submitted my case to the jury, as was clearly your duty, even then I should have had just cause of protest for not one of those men was my peer; but, native or foreign-born, white or black, rich or poor, educated or ignorant, awake or asleep, sober or drunk, each and every man of them was my political superior; hence, in no sense, my peer. Even, under such circumstances, a commoner of England, tried before a jury of Lords, would have far less cause to complain than should I, a woman, tried before a jury of men. Even my counsel, the Hon. Henry R. Selden, who has argued my cause so ably, so earnestly, so unanswerably before your honor, is my political sovereign. Precisely as no disfranchised person is entitled to sit upon a jury, and no woman is entitled to the franchise, so, none but a regularly admitted lawyer is allowed to practice in the courts, and no woman can gain admission to the bar—hence, jury, judge, counsel, must all be of the superior class.
Judge Hunt—The Court must insist—the prisoner has been tried according to the established forms of law.
Miss Anthony—Yes, your honor, but by forms of law all made by men, interpreted by men, administered by men, in favor of men, and against women; and hence, your honor’s ordered verdict of guilty, against a United States citizen for the exercise of “that citizen’s right to vote,” simply because that citizen was a woman and not a man. But, yesterday, the same man-made forms of law, declared it a crime punishable with $1,000 fi ne and six months’ imprisonment, for you, or me, or any of us, to give a cup of cold water, a crust of bread, or a night’s shelter to a panting fugitive as he was tracking his way to Canada. And every man or woman in whose veins coursed a drop of human sympathy violated that wicked law, reckless of consequences, and was justified in so doing. As then, the slaves who got their freedom must take it over, or under, or through the unjust forms of law, precisely so, now, must women, to get their right to a voice in this government, take it; and I have taken mine, and mean to take it at every possible opportunity.
Judge Hunt—The Court orders the prisoner to sit down. It will not allow another word.
Miss Anthony—When I was brought before your honor for trial, I hoped for a broad and liberal interpretation of the Constitution and its recent amendments, that should declare all United States citizens under its protecting aegis—that should declare equality of rights the national guarantee to all persons born or naturalized in the United States. But failing to get this justice—failing, even, to get a trial by a jury not of my peers—I ask not leniency at your hands—but rather the full rigors of the law.
Judge Hunt—T e Court must insist— (Here the prisoner sat down.) Judge Hunt—The prisoner will stand up. (Here Miss Anthony arose again.) The sentence of the Court is that you pay a fine of one hundred dollars and the costs of the prosecution.
Miss Anthony—May it please your honor, I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty. All the stock in trade I possess is a $10,000 debt, incurred by publishing my paper—The Revolution—four years ago, the sole object of which was to educate all women to do precisely as I have done, rebel against your man-made, unjust, unconstitutional forms of law, that tax, fine, imprison and hang women, while they deny them the right of representation in the government; and I shall work on with might and main to pay every dollar of that honest debt, but not a penny shall go to this unjust claim. And I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim, that “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.”
Judge Hunt—Madam, the Court will not order you committed until the fine is paid.
That’s some intense dialogue right there. Suffice it to say that this got quite the publicity.
Susan and Elizabeth continued their quest for Women’s Rights up until their deaths. They held conventions, wrote speeches and articles for the papers. From 1869-1906, Susan appeared before every congress to ask for a women’s suffer amendment.
In 1906 on her 86th birthday she made one last speech in which she said these famous words:
“There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause — I wish I could name every one — but with such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible”
Susan died March 13th, 1906. She is supposed to have said this before she died.
“To think I have had more than 60 years of hard struggle for a little liberty and then to die without it seems so cruel.”
In 1920, 14 years after Susan B. Anthony’s death, women were finally granted the right to vote. Not only that, but even before Susan’s death, legal rights for married women were in place in most states, more and more professions were now being opened for women and at least 36,000 women were attending colleges. She may not have been able to have the liberty, but she gave it to future generations.
Before I close this week’s post there is one more quote that stuck out to me. Clara Barton said this a few days before Susan’s death and I wanted to share it with you:
“A few days ago someone said to me that every woman should stand with bared head before Susan B. Anthony. ‘Yes,’ I answered, ‘and every man as well.’ … For ages he has been trying to carry the burden of life’s responsibilities alone… Just now it is new and strange and men cannot comprehend what it would mean but the change is not far away.
So it might be helpful to not just see it as women weren’t being treated fairly, but that men had to handle life all on their own and now women could help handle burden and they will, next week we talk about being a woman during the World Wars.
Thank you again for joining me this week, I hope to see you next week!
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