Susan B. Anthony Biography - Woman Suffrage Advocate

Susan B. Anthony was a primary figure in the Women's Suffrage movement. With Elizabeth Cady Stanton she founded the National Women's Suffrage Association and began a nation wide campaign to win women the right to vote.

"This government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex . . . which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation."

These are the words Susan B. Anthony spoke after she was arrested with her sister, Mary, and fourteen other women. It was Thanksgiving Day, 1872 and she had been charged with having "knowingly voted without having a lawful right to vote." The judge, who was trying his very first criminal case, ordered the jury to find her guilty, then dismissed them since there were, according to him, no questions of fact for them to consider. He fined Anthony a hundred dollars, which she refused to pay. Then he asked if she had anything to say. Indeed she did.

"Yes, your honor, I have many things to say; for in your ordered verdict of guilty, you have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored. Robbed of the fundamental privilege of citizenship, I am degraded from the status of a citizen to that of a subject; and not only myself individually, but all of my sex, are, by your honor's verdict, doomed to political subjection under this, so-called, form of government."

These words valiantly stated what she and many other women were fighting for. The right to vote was essential to women for full, active citizenship.

Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15, 1820 near Adams, Massachusetts. Although she was one of eight children only she and her sister, Mary, lived to adulthood. Their father, in accordance with the family's Quaker beliefs, was a liberal thinker who believed in education, even for women, and added a room onto their house to serve as a school for his own and other children.

Throughout her early career she was a teacher, but earned a mere one fifth of the wages of male teachers. She lost at least one job for protesting this inequity. Her upbringing was dramatically different from other women of her time. Most women were not educated, nor were they given such a voice in important matters.

Also interested in Temperance, or the outlaw of alcoholic beverages, Anthony met a woman who would become a lifelong friend at a Temperance society meeting. The woman was Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Together they fought tirelessly for women's rights and suffrage, even as Stanton, who was married, bore and raised seven children.

During the Civil War members of the women's movement participated heavily in abolitionist activities. Despite their efforts to link voting rights for women to those for black men, they did not win, and the fifteenth amendment allowed black men the right to vote, but no women of any race was yet to have the legal right to cast a ballot.

It was at that time she was arrested for trying to vote without legal permission to do so. She and fifteen other women had registered to vote in Rochester County, New York on November 1, 1872 and were arrested three weeks later. The judge opposed women's suffrage and wrote his decision before even hearing the trial. (Anthony was never pressured to pay the hundred dollar fine.)

Along with doing much writing and public speaking, Anthony and Stanton formed the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1890. Through their hard work, many previously sex restricted vocations were available to women. By the time she died in 1907, four western states had granted voting rights to women: Wyoming first, then Colorado, Idaho and Utah. But she did not live to see national women's suffrage. It did not occur until the passage of the nineteenth amendment in the year 1920.

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