Who Was Susan B. Anthony?
Susan B. Anthony was an American writer, lecturer and abolitionist who was a leading figure in the women's voting rights movement. Raised in a Quaker household, Anthony went on to work as a teacher. She later partnered with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and would eventually lead the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
Early Life, Family and Education
Anthony was born on February 15, 1820, in Adams, Massachusetts. The second oldest of eight children to a local cotton mill owner and his wife, only five of Anthony’s siblings lived to be adults. One child was stillborn, and another died at age two.
Anthony grew up in a Quaker family and developed a strong moral compass early on, spending much of her life working on social causes. In 1826, the Anthony family moved to Battenville, New York. Around this time, Anthony was sent to study at a Quaker school near Philadelphia.
After her father's business failed in the late 1830s, Anthony returned home to help her family make ends meet. She found work as a teacher. The Anthonys moved to a farm in the Rochester, New York area, in the mid-1840s.
In the 1840s, Anthony’s family became involved in the fight to end slavery, also known as the abolitionist movement. The Anthonys' Rochester farm served as a meeting place for such famed abolitionists as Frederick Douglass. Around this time, Anthony became the head of the girls' department at Canajoharie Academy — a post she held for two years.
Leaving the Canajoharie Academy in 1849, Anthony soon devoted more of her time to social issues. She was also involved in the temperance movement, aimed at limiting or completely stopping the production and sale of alcohol.
Anthony was inspired to fight for women's rights while campaigning against alcohol. Anthony was denied a chance to speak at a temperance convention because she was a woman, and later realized that no one would take women in politics seriously unless they had the right to vote.
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
In 1851, Anthony attended an anti-slavery conference, where she met Stanton. The pair established the Women's New York State Temperance Society in 1852. Before long, they were fighting for women's rights, forming the New York State Woman's Rights Committee. Anthony also started petitions for women to have the right to own property and to vote. She traveled extensively, campaigning on the behalf of women.
In 1856, Anthony began working as an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. She spent years promoting the society's cause up until the Civil War.
After the Civil War was over, Anthony began focusing more on women's rights. She and Stanton established the American Equal Rights Association in 1866, calling for the same rights to be granted to all regardless of race or sex. In 1868, Anthony and Stanton also created and began producing The Revolution, a weekly publication that lobbied for women's rights. The newspaper's motto was "Men their rights, and nothing more; women their rights, and nothing less."
Women's Right to Vote
In 1869, Anthony and Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. Anthony was tireless in her efforts, giving speeches around the country to convince others to support a woman's right to vote.
She even took matters into her own hands in 1872, when she voted illegally in the presidential election. Anthony was arrested for the crime, and she unsuccessfully fought the charges; she was fined $100, which she never paid.
Even in her later years, Anthony never gave up on her fight for women's suffrage. In 1905, she met with President Theodore Roosevelt in Washington, D.C., to lobby for an amendment to give women the right to vote. However, it wouldn't be until 14 years after Anthony's death — in 1920 — that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving all adult women the right to vote, was passed.
In the early 1880s, Anthony published the first volume of History of Woman Suffrage — a project that she co-edited with Stanton, Ida Husted Harper and Matilda Joslin Gage. Several more volumes would follow.
Anthony also helped Harper to record her own story, which resulted in the 1898 work The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony: A Story of the Evolution of the Status of Women.
Anthony died on March 13, 1906, at the age of 86 at her home in Rochester, New York. According to her obituary in The New York Times, shortly before her death, Anthony told friend Anna Shaw, "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."
Susan B. Anthony Dollar
In recognition of her dedication and hard work, the U.S. Treasury Department put Anthony's portrait on dollar coins in 1979, making her the first woman to be so honored.
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