Anthony, Susan B(rownell)

views updated

ANTHONY, Susan B(rownell)

Born 15 February 1820, Adams, Massachusetts; died 13 March 1906, Rochester, New York

Daughter of Lucy (Read) and Daniel Anthony

Susan B. Anthony was the daughter of a Quaker father and Baptist mother. She received a thoroughly Quaker education, which influenced her belief in equality between men and women as well as her interest in other social issues. She began her professional life as a schoolteacher, discovering firsthand the effects of disproportionate wages. In 1849 she decided to quit teaching and returned to her family's farm.

Although she is strongly linked with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the two women did not meet until 1850, two years after the famous Seneca Falls convention during which Stanton introduced a woman suffrage amendment. From the moment of their meeting, however, the women were friends and colleagues. Anthony had already been drawn to other reform movements, especially temperance and abolition, in part because her family's household was frequently populated by noted agitators such as Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. One of the most dramatic moments in her conversion to the women's rights movement, in fact, came through her participation in other reform work; in 1852 she was prohibited from speaking, by virtue of her sex, at a temperance meeting. Her response was to form the Woman's New York State Temperance Society. Within another year, she had committed herself wholeheartedly to women's rights, especially suffrage, and this cause was to occupy her for the rest of her life.

As a reformer, she was frequently held up to parody and scorn. She was ridiculed because of her physical appearance, her dress—she adopted for a time the "Bloomer" outfit—and her status as an unmarried woman. In part because of this response, she did not enjoy appearing on stage as a public speaker, but she remained relentless in her work for justice.

During the decade preceding and during the Civil War, Anthony became increasingly committed to abolition; beginning in 1856, she served as a New York agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. Contemporary critics frequently cite her for failing to wholeheartedly support the 14th amendment to the Constitution, providing black men the right to vote, though she had supported the 13th, which abolished slavery. Anthony's goal, however, was universal suffrage, and she was severely disappointed a suffrage amendment would pass that did not include women. She did argue that if achievement of the right to vote should be staggered among various groups, white women should receive it before black men, because white women of the time tended to be more highly educated than black men. She also predicted antagonism to woman suffrage would grow if more men were allowed to vote and that black male suffrage would be a roadblock rather than a step on the way to woman suffrage.

Through the funding of George Francis Train, Anthony helped to establish the suffrage newspaper Revolution. Its first issue was published in January 1868. Anthony was listed as publisher, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Parker Pillsbury serving as editors. Unfortunately for Anthony's enduring reputation, the paper strongly opposed the 14th amendment because it did not include women. The amendment, in other words, was not radical enough, and the paper supported additional radical ideas, especially as they related to issues of gender, such as equal pay for men and women, better education for girls, more professional options for women, and easier access to divorce. The paper quickly ran into financial difficulties, however, especially after Train withdrew his support. By 1870 the paper had acquired $10,000 of debt, which Anthony retained in selling the paper to Laura Curtis Bullard.

In 1869 Anthony and Stanton had formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. Later that year, other suffragists who opposed some of the tactics and philosophies of Anthony and Stanton formed the American Woman Suffrage Association; the two groups would not reunite for 20 years. To urge the suffrage issue forward, Anthony voted illegally in the 1872 presidential election. She was arrested and pronounced guilty in a highly questionable decision by a judge who refused to acknowledge the role of the jury. Anthony refused to pay her fine but was prohibited from carrying the case to the Supreme Court, which she had hoped would exonerate her.

Anthony's primary publication is the History of Woman Suffrage (1881-1902), which she coauthored with Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage. The complete edition of this work continues to function as a crucial historical document for scholars working in this area.

In 1892 Anthony moved in with her sister in Rochester, New York, where she remained for the rest of her life, though she remained active in local, state, and national politics. By the time of her death in 1906, she had become more of a national heroine than an object of ridicule. In her will she named the suffrage movement as heir to her savings of $10,000. She is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York.

Other Works:

The personal papers of Susan B. Anthony are housed in a number of institutions, including the Library of Congress, Radcliffe College, and the Susan B. Anthony Memorial in Rochester, New York


Anthony, K. S., Susan B. Anthony: Her Personal History and Her Era (1954). Barry, K., Susan B. Anthony (1988). Dorr, P. C., Susan B. Anthony, The Woman Who Changed the Mind of a Nation (1928). DuBois, E. C., Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of the Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848-1869 (1978). DuBois, E. C., ed., Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: Correspondence, Writings, Speeches (1981). Harper, I. H., The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony (3 vols., 1898-1908). Lutz, A., Susan B. Anthony (1959).

Reference Works:

Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography (1888). DAB (1929, 1957). NAW (1971). Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995).


About this article

Anthony, Susan B(rownell)

Updated About content Print Article