Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony was a pioneer in the fight for women's rights. In 1860 she stated, "Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform."
True to her words, she voted in the 1872 presidential election even though it was illegal for a woman to vote. She was arrested, tried, and found guilty. (In their History of Woman Suffrage, Anthony and her suffragist colleague Elizabeth Cady Stanton took note of the trial judge's “remarkable forethought” because “he had penned his decision before hearing” her case.)
At trial she was allowed only closing remarks. In them she referenced America's slavery era when, as an Abolitionist orator during what she described as “The Winter of the Mobs," she was burned in effigy for demanding, “No compromise with slaveholders!”). “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," Susan B. told the judge, "and I have taken mine, and mean to take it at every possible opportunity."
Anthony's militant resolve on behalf of women never diminished. In a late-in-life interview, she declared, “All we can do is to agitate, agitate, agitate.” Stanton, her visionary feminist friend, was militantly steadfast for women too, and a fine agitator. For her, when demanding equality for women no holds were barred. She believed that “every form of religion which has breathed upon this earth has degraded woman.” In 1895, days after her eightieth birthday, Elizabeth published The Woman's Bible, a volume that blasted the centuries-old practice of using religious scripture to justify the subjugation of females. Her analysis of the Judeo-Christian Bible revealed a “declaration of the existence of the feminine element in the Godhead, equal in power and glory with the masculine.”
The publication was condemned as blasphemous and immoral and, to Stanton's delight, made “the clergy jump round . . . like parched peas on a hot shovel.” She wrote that some “say it is not politic to rouse religious opposition. This much-lauded policy is but another word for cowardice. How can woman's position be changed from that of a subordinate to an equal, without opposition, without the broadest discussion of all the questions involved in her present degradation.”
When because of her book Stanton was threatened with censure in a suffrage movement she was essential in founding, Anthony defended her. “The religious persecution of the ages has been carried on under what was claimed to be the command of God,” Susan declared. “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do,” she continued, “because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. . . . The point is whether you will sit in judgment on one who questions the divine inspiration of certain passages in the Bible derogatory to women. . . . Who can tell now whether these [Stanton's] commentaries may not prove a great help to woman's emancipation from old superstitions which have barred its way?”
Her comments were addressed to a convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Its delegates were poised to pass a resolution to distance the group from Mrs. Stanton and her unorthodox text. Anthony stated that she would be “pained beyond expression if the delegates here are so narrow and illiberal as to adopt this resolution” against a woman who was “the acknowledged leader of progressive thought and demand in regard to all matters pertaining to the absolute freedom of woman.” Nevertheless, the resolution was adopted.
Stanton, with whom Anthony worked in tandem since 1851, died in 1902. In 1906 Susan herself died. In her last public remarks, the fiery octogenarian proclaimed, "Failure is impossible!"
With similar sure-mindedness, the General (as Anthony was called) also declared that she "never found the man who was necessary to my happiness." In letters to suffragist Anna Dickinson, she expressed desires "to snuggle you darling closer than ever" in her bed that was "big enough and good enough to take you in." To her niece whom she planned to visit, Anthony wrote that, first, she would "call in Chicago--at my new lover's--Mrs. Gross--48 Lake Shore Drive."
1. Lynn Sherr, Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words (New York: Times, 1995), 48.
2. Sherr, 109.
3. Sherr, 30.
4. Sherr, 30.
5. Sherr, 116.
6. Sherr, 71.
7. Susan Jacoby, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism (New York: Metropolitan, 2004), 197.
8. Geoffrey C. Ward, Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: An Illustrated History, based on a documentary film by Ken Burns and Paul Barnes (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), 200.
9. Ward, 200.
10. Gerda Lerner, supervising ed. and Ellen Carol Dubois, ed. and critical commentator, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony: Correspondence, Writings, Speeches (New York: Schocken, 1981), 232.
11. Lerner, 243.
12. Lerner, 243.
13. Lerner, 244.
14. Sherr, 324.
15. Sherr, 71
16. Lillian Faderman, To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done for America—A History (Boston: Mariner, 2000), 29.
17. Faderman, 26.
18. Faderman, 26.
19. Faderman, 28.
20. "Susan B. Anthony's Vote," Harper's Weekley, July 5, 1873, 581.