Susan B. Anthony

Women's Suffrage Spokesperson

Susan B. Anthony, circa 1898
Susan B. Anthony, circa 1898. MPI / Archive Photos / Getty Images

Known for: key spokesperson for the 19th century women's suffrage movement, probably the best-known of the suffragists

Occupation: activist, reformer, teacher, lecturer
Dates: February 15, 1820 - March 13, 1906
Also known as: Susan Brownell Anthony

Susan B. Anthony Biography

Susan B. Anthony was raised in New York as a Quaker. She taught for a few years at a Quaker seminary and from there became a headmistress at a women's division of a school. At 29 years old Anthony became involved in abolitionism and then temperance. A friendship with Amelia Bloomer led to a meeting with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was to become her lifelong partner in political organizing, especially for women's rights and woman suffrage.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, married and mother to a number of children, served as the writer and idea-person of the two, and Susan B. Anthony, never married, was more often the organizer and the one who traveled, spoke widely, and bore the brunt of antagonistic public opinion.

After the Civil War, discouraged that those working for "Negro" suffrage were willing to continue to exclude women from voting rights, Susan B. Anthony became more focused on woman suffrage. She helped to found the American Equal Rights Association in 1866, and in 1868 with Stanton as editor, became publisher of Revolution. Stanton and Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association, larger than its rival American Woman Suffrage Association, associated with Lucy Stone, with which it finally merged in 1890.

In 1872, in an attempt to claim that the constitution already permitted women to vote, Susan B. Anthony cast a test vote in Rochester, New York, in the presidential election. She was found guilty, though she refused to pay the resulting fine (and no attempt was made to force her to do so).

In her later years, Susan B. Anthony worked closely with Carrie Chapman Catt, retiring from active leadership of the suffrage movement in 1900 and turning over presidency of the NAWSA to Catt. She worked with Stanton and Mathilda Gage on a History of Woman Suffrage.

In her writings, Susan B. Anthony occasionally mentioned abortion. Susan B. Anthony opposed abortion which at the time was an unsafe medical procedure for women, endangering their health and life. She blamed men, laws and the "double standard" for driving women to abortion because they had no other options. ("When a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is a sign that, by education or circumstances, she has been greatly wronged." 1869) She believed, as did many of the feminists of her era, that only the achievement of women's equality and freedom would end the need for abortion. Anthony used her anti-abortion writings as yet another argument for women's rights.

Some of Susan B. Anthony's writings were also quite racist by today's standards, particularly those from the period when she was angry that the Fifteenth Amendment wrote the word "male" into the constitution for the first time in permitting suffrage for freedmen. She sometimes argued that educated white women would be better voters than "ignorant" black men or immigrant men.

In the late 1860s she even portrayed the vote of freedmen as threatening the safety of white women. George Francis Train, whose capital helped launch Anthony and Stanton's Revolution newspaper, was a noted racist.

In 1979, Susan B. Anthony's image was chosen for the new dollar coin, making her the first woman to be depicted on US currency. The size of the dollar was, however, close to that of the quarter, and the Anthony dollar never became very popular. In 1999 the US government announced the replacement of the Susan B. Anthony dollar with one featuring the image of Sacagawea.

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