Susan B. Anthony Biography


A Life Dedicated to the Rights and Freedoms for All

As strange as it may sound today, a hundred years ago the right to vote wasn't just handed out to any and every American citizen who registered to do so. The right for every citizen (over the age of 18 today, after the 26th constitutional amendment passed in 1971) to vote had to be fought for; in more than one battle, no less. Susan B. Anthony helped to lead one of these fights and successfully brought the right for women's suffrage (the right to vote) to the attention of the American people and built the support needed to pass the 19th constitutional amendment in 1919, which gave women the right to vote.

Susan Brownell Anthony was born on February 15th, 1820, in Adams, Massachusetts into a strict Quaker family. She was the second of eight children and was an excellent learner, able to read and write by the age of three. Her childhood was not filled with the same activities as the other children of her day - toys, games, and music - but instead was taken up by the practicing of self-discipline and instruction on religious convictions. Her father worked to ensure a good education for her and, when a teacher refused to teach Susan long division, he set up a home school of sorts where she was able to learn without such limits. Afterwards, she attended a boarding school near Philadelphia and became a very well-educated and independent woman for her time.

It was through her early education and later interests that Susan B. Anthony became an activist interested in civil rights. And because of this interest and her desire to bring equality to everyone, she gave many speeches on women's right to vote trying to convince the world of women's equality to men. However, she was not filled with self-confidence while she shared her message with people; she was self-conscious about how she looked and about how she spoke. In fact, it took her a long time to even publicly speak at all, fearing that her speech would not be good enough. But she worked hard and overcame her fears, going on to give between 75 and 100 speeches per year for 45 years (between 3,375 and 4,500 public speeches in her lifetime!). And she traveled thousands of miles to give these speeches all over the United States and Europe; all without modern travel conveniences. She traveled by nearly every means imaginable, including: carriage, wagon, train, mule, bicycle, stagecoach, ship, ferry boat and sleigh.

Susan B. Anthony started off much smaller than all that, however. Shortly before the civil war began, she was working with the anti-slavery movement and became very outspoken against slavery. During this time she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the two became fast friends. And while they both believed in racial equality, they both grew tired of the anti-slavery movement because it often spoke only of all men being equal, leaving women to remain lesser beings under the law. Out of this frustration they focused on making women equal to men under the law, with a particular focus on giving women the right to vote.

With that as their goal, they founded the National Woman's Suffrage Association in 1869. A few years afterwards in 1872, Susan B. Anthony was arrested for attempting to vote, to which she plead not guilty, but lost due to the judge deciding the case before it was heard. She was ordered to pay a $100 fine, to which she responded, "May it please your honor, I will never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty." She never did and the government never sought payment. This verdict did not dampen her determination, though, and in 1890 she organized and executed the merger of her National Woman's Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association, furthering her goal of achieving the right to vote.

Her goal was finally achieved in 1920 with the ratifying of the 19th constitutional amendment. And although Susan B. Anthony passed away on March 13<sup>th</sup>, 1906, her work and dedication directly contributed to women gaining the right to vote. She also later became the first woman on circulating US coinage, with the Susan B. Anthony dollar minted in 1979-1981 and in 1999. She remains an inspiration and an example of what it took to achieve the rights and freedoms we have today.

For more information: biography on Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony House, located in Rochester, NY

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  • Randy Allen
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