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Susan B. Anthony

The Champion of Women's Rights and Vote

By John T. Marck

One of the principal reasons that women were given the right to vote was largely due to the actions and determination of Susan B. Anthony. However, hundreds of years earlier, another determined woman by the name of Margaret Brent attempted to vote in1648, but was denied. Brent's attempt would be the first in the United States by a woman, who attempted this in the State of Maryland.

Known as the "Napoleon of the women's rights movement," Susan Brownell Anthony was born to Quaker parents in1820 in Adams, Massachusetts, to a family that strongly believed in the abolition of slavery. She grew to become the famous social reformer and women's suffrage leader - a champion of women's rights. She learned from her father and her Quaker up bringing a teaching of equality before God, and through her strong sense of independence, devoted herself to this cause for more than half a century.

Her involvement began when after having taught school for ten years, she returned to her home to help manage the family farm. Here she met Lloyd Garrison, Amelia Bloomer and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, all abolitionists. Through their influence she began her temperance work. Once at a temperance rally she attempted to speak, but was not permitted to do so. In defiance, she and Stanton formed the first women's temperance society.

Because Ms. Anthony never married, she had the time, freedom and ability to travel. Because she was not a very good speaker, she left most of the speeches to Stanton, who excelled at this. It is my opinion that although she may not have been the orator that Stanton was, she excelled in writing, as I find her various speeches very inspiring. Because Stanton assumed the title role as speaker, Anthony stayed to working, and most effectively, behind the scenes. For many years, she worked tirelessly on tours in the Eastern United States, where she garnered support, obtained signatures on petitions, and gave some lectures, in spite of her shortcomings as a speaker. Many times, she placed herself in danger, because she frequently encountered abusive people, bordering on violence.

In the 1800s, women in the United States had few legal rights. By the 1850s, through their hard work, women's property rights developed through changes in the laws in New York. During the Civil War, they managed to obtain hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions that supported emancipation, yet gained little support for women's rights and suffrage. Upon the passage of the 14th Amendment, which gave Negroes the right to vote, she and her followers saw this as a betrayal to the cause of women. In furtherance of their cause, Stanton and Anthony published a weekly journal titled Revolution. Its crusade was for women's rights, and its motto was: Men Their Rights and Nothing More - Women Their Rights and Nothing Less.

By 1869 they had founded the first national organization - the National Woman Suffrage Association, which was devoted entirely to women's right to vote. Its major goal was to have a Federal woman's suffrage amendment. Several months after this organization was formed, another lady named Lucy Stone founded the American Woman Suffrage Association, which by design was to garner support through the states.

In 1873, Susan Anthony was arrested for casting an illegal vote in the presidential election of 1872. She was tried and then fined $100 but refused to pay. Regarding this issue, Anthony wrote the following :

"Friends and fellow citizens:

I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen's rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.

The preamble of the Federal Constitution says: "We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people - women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government - the ballot. For any state to make sex a qualification that must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people, is to pass a bill of attainder, or, an ex post facto law, and is therefore a violation of the supreme law of the land.

By it the blessings of liberty are forever withheld from women and their female posterity. To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household - which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation. Webster, Worcester, and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office. The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not.

Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no state has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several states is today null and void, precisely as is every one against Negroes."

Soon thereafter, Anthony finally was able to persuade California Senator Aaron Sargent to introduce a women's suffrage amendment in the U.S. Senate. Also, up to this time, the two suffrage organizations, the federal and state, had differences, but in 1890, they resolved them and merged, forming the National American Women's Suffrage Association. Although it took another ten years, but by 1900, Anthony was considered its champion leader.

At the age of eighty, she retired as the association's president, and gave her final speech in 1906, titled: "Failure is Impossible." Susan B. Anthony died in 1906. Following her death, after fifty years of tireless dedication, both the Democratic and Republican parties finally endorsed women's right to vote. In August of 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was finally ratified, which allowed women the right to vote.

Copyright 1990-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.