Anthony, Susan Brownell (1820–1906)

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Susan B. Anthony was born in Adams, Massachusetts to a Quaker father and a Baptist mother. She never married and was a lifelong advocate of self-support for women. In 1850, she met elizabeth cady stanton, from whom she learned about women's rights, and became a passionate believer. Together they led the American women's rights movement for the next half-century. Their first goal was the establishment of basic economic rights for married women. Beginning in 1854, Anthony traveled across New York collecting petitions to the state legislature, which in 1860 passed a comprehensive Married Women's Property Act. Simultaneously, she was an organizer of the American Anti Slavery Society, and her women's rights and abolitionist sentiments were closely related.

After the Civil War and following the lead of the antislavery movement, Stanton and Anthony concentrated on equal citizenship and political rights for women. They tried but failed to get women included in the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, an effort which left them committed to a focus on political equality and the Constitution as the source of political rights. In 1869, they formed the National Woman Suffrage Association, precipitating a split with other women's rights activists not willing to criticize the Fifteenth Amendment or break with longtime abolitionist and Republican allies by doing so.

In the early 1870s, Anthony and Stanton advanced an innovative constitutional argument resting on the proposition that the Fourteenth Amendment included women when it established federal citizenship. Inasmuch as the right to vote was patently the fundamental right of citizenship, they argued, woman suffrage was thus authorized by the Constitution. Accordingly, in November, 1872, Anthony took the most famous act of her life: she convinced Rochester, New York election officials to allow her to submit her ballot for President. For this she was found guilty of illegal voting in U.S. District Court, and fined $100, which she refused to pay. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a related case, minor v. happersett (1875), found decisively against the suffragists' constitutional construction.

From this point on, Anthony dedicated herself to securing a separate woman suffrage amendment. In 1876, she presented a militant "Woman's Declaration of Rights" to the official Revolutionary Centennial in Philadelphia, condemning the refusal to extend the nation's democratic principles to women. In 1890, she oversaw the unification of the suffrage movement, and served as president of the newly created National American Woman Suffrage Association until 1900. Throughout the 1890s, Anthony, then in her seventies, traveled to California, Kansas, South Dakota, and Colorado to work for state suffrage referendums and to England and France to organize suffragists internationally. In 1900, she retired and in 1906, she died. In 1920, her goal was finally realized with the ratification of the nineteenth amendment, known popularly as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.

Ellen Carol Du b ois

(see also: Woman Suffrage Movement.)


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

Buhle, Mari Jo and Paul, eds. 1978 Concise History of Woman Suffrage. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press.

Gordon, Ann D., ed. 1997 The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Vol. 1. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.

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

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Anthony, Susan Brownell (1820–1906)

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