"The true republic: men their rights and nothing more; women their rights and nothing less."
Susan B. Anthony fought for women's rights and for the slaves to be free. Susan believed that all people were equal. I admire her for her strong determination, courage and confidence.
Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15, 1820, near Adams, Massachusetts. She was one of eight children, although only six lived to be adults. Susan's father felt that women should get as much education as they wanted. He built a school by adding a room to their home for his own children and others.
When she was between fifteen and sixteen, she went to other people's houses to teach children. She liked the chance to earn money of her own. In 1838, her father lost his cotton mill business because of the financial depression in the United States, and in the spring of 1839 he had to sell their house. They moved to a town called Hardscrabble. In the spring of 1840, she went to teach at a boarding school near New York City. While Susan was teaching, she heard people talking about getting rid of slavery. She agreed with this idea, just like her father did. She believed that all people were equal.
In 1849, when Susan came back home to Rochester, her father had started inviting over his friends who wanted to talk about getting rid of slavery. She listened to her father and to others who wanted to help slaves find freedom.
All through the 1850s, the abolition of slavery was becoming an important issue. The people in the North were against slavery, while the people in the South wanted to keep slavery. Those who were against slavery were called abolitionists. A lot of abolitionists were invited to the farm. They all supported Susan in her work for women's rights.
In 1856, the abolitionists asked Susan to organize, write and deliver speeches for a campaign against slavery. In 1865, their efforts would pay off with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Even though the slaves were free they didn't get the right to vote.
In addition to Susan's fight to end slavery, she joined the Women's State Temperance Society in the State of New York. Both men and women could join, and at the society's second convention the men started taking over, so Susan resigned as leader of the group. That was the end of her work with the temperance movement; she began working for women's rights.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton wanted to combine the efforts of the abolitionists and the women's rights groups. Unfortunately, the abolitionists didn't want to work for women to have the right to vote. (Just as before, many of the women's suffragists did not care to get their cause tangled up with abolition.) Susan and Elizabeth were back where they had started twenty years before and focused their efforts on women's rights in order to raise money.
In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment passed. This amendment stated that all people who were born or naturalized in the United States were citizens of the U.S. In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment passed. This amendment stated that the right of citizens of the U.S. to vote shall not be denied to anyone because of race or skin color, even if the person had once been a slave. These amendments were passed to give the black men the right to vote.
Susan continued working hard by going from state to state giving speeches about the enfranchisement of women. In 1878, Susan convinced Senator Aaron Sargent of California to propose an amendment to the constitution for women's suffrage. The amendment was defeated, but Susan worked hard to have the amendment proposed every year.
In 1902, Susan B. Anthony wrote to Elizabeth Cady Stanton:
"It is fifty-one years since we first met and we have been busy through every one of them, stirring up the world to reorganize the rights of women...We little dreamed when we began this contest...that half a century later we would be compelled to leave the finish of the battle to another generation of women. But our hearts are filled with joy to know that they enter upon this task equipped with a college education, with business experience, with the freely admitted right to speak in public - all of which were denied to women fifty years ago."
On March 13, 1906, Susan B. Anthony died in Rochester, New York. On November 1920, fourteen and a half years later, The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guaranteed women their right to vote. Susan's dream had finally come true.
In 1979, more than seventy years after her death, Susan B. Anthony was honored with her picture on the United States one-dollar coin.
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1. Susan B. Anthony, Pioneer in Women's Rights, by Helen Stone Peterson, 1971
2. Susan B. Anthony, Women Suffragist, by Barbara Weisberg, 1988.
3. The Story of Susan B. Anthony, by Susan Clinton, 1986.
4. We the People, Susan B. Anthony, by Cindy Klingel, 1987.
The program of the World's Congress Auxiliary at the World's Columbian Exposition opened on 15 May 1893 with a seven-day World's Congress of Representative Women. Drawing some of the largest audiences of any congress and crowding the new Art Memorial Building (now the Art Institute), the program provided hundreds of simultaneous sessions, many of them focused on a particular organization or profession of women. On the evening of May 20, Anthony addressed one session of what was called a general congress on the topic of organization. She shared the stage with several other speakers, all addressing the subject from different vantage points. Three thousand people found space in Washington Hall to hear her.
During the week of the presentation of the work of the various organizations that have been represented in this Congress, organizations from the Old World and the New, I have been curious to learn that "all roads lead to Rome." That is to say, it doesn't matter whether an organization is called the King's Daughters,1 the partisan, or non-partisan Woman's Christian Temperance Union; whether it is called a Portia club, a sorosis, or a federation of clubs; a missionary society to reclaim the heathen of the Fiji Islands or an educational association; whether it is of the Jewish, of the Catholic, of the Protestant, of the Liberal, or the other sort of religion; somehow or other, everybody and every association that has spoken or reported has closed up with the statement that what they are waiting for is the ballot.
Another curious thing I have noted as I have listened to their reports is, that one association, the Federation of Clubs,2 which is only three years old—not old enough to vote yet—can count forty thousand members;3 that the Relief Associations of Utah, which is perhaps a quarter of a century old, reports thirty thousand members; that the Christian Temperance Union, which is yet but a little past its second decade, can report a half- million members; that the King's Daughters, only seven years old, can report two hundred thousand members; and so I might run through with all the organizations of the Old and the New worlds that have reported here, and I will venture to say that there is scarcely one of them that does not report a larger number than the Woman's Suffrage Association of the United States. Now why is it? I will tell you frankly and honestly that all we number is seven thousand. This is the number that reported this year to the national organization, which is an association composed of all the State societies and local societies that are united and that pay a little money. These other societies have a fee, or I suppose they do. But I want to say that all this great national suffrage movement that has made this immense revolution in this country, has done the work of agitation, and has kept up what Daniel Webster called it, "the rumpus of agitation,"4 probably represents a smaller number of women, and especially represents a smaller amount of money to carry on its work than any other organization under the shadow of the American flag. We have known how to make the noise, you see, and how to bring the whole world to our organization in spirit, if not in person. I would philosophize on the reason why. It is because women have been taught always to work for something else than their own personal freedom; and the hardest thing in the world is to organize women for the one purpose of securing their political liberty and political equality. It is easy to congregate thousands and hundreds of thousands of women to try to stay the tide of intemperance; to try to elevate the morals of a community; to try to educate the masses of people; to try to relieve the poverty of the miserable; but it is a very difficult thing to make the masses of women, any more than the masses of men, congregate in great numbers to study the cause of all the ills of which they complain, and to organize for the removal of that cause; to organize for the establishment of great principles that will be sure to bring about the results which they so much desire.
Now, friends, I can tell you a great deal about what the lack of organization means, and what a hindrance this lack has been in the great movement with which I have been associated. If we could have gone to our State legislatures saying that we had numbered in our association the vast masses of the women; five millions of women in these United States who sympathize with us in spirit, and who wish we might gain the end; if we could have demonstrated to the Congress of the United States, and to the legislatures of the respective States, that we had a thorough organization back of our demand, we should have had all our demands granted long ago, and each one of the organizations which have come up here to talk at this great congress of women would not have been compelled to climax its report with the statement that they are without the ballot, and with the assertion that they need only the ballot to help them carry their work on to greater success. I want every single woman of every single organization of the Old World and the New that has thus reported, and that does feel that enfranchisement, that political equality is the underlying need to carry forward all the great enterprises of the world—I want each one to register herself, so that I can report them all at Washington next winter, and we will carry every demand which you want.
I want you to remember that Mrs. Rachel Foster Avery is to make the closing speech, and that this meeting is not adjourned; and I want all of you to bear in mind that the two young women who have made this Congress possible are my children. They were educated in this very small company, this small organization of which I am a member; and I am proud to say that that organization has graduated a great many first-class students, and among them none so near to my heart as May Wright Sewall and Rachel Foster Avery.5
May Wright Sewall, ed., World's Congress of Representative Women (Chicago and New York, 1894), 463–66.
Prepared for the Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, vol. 5, Their Place Inside the Body-Politic, 1887 to 1895, ed. Ann D. Gordon (New Brunswick, N.J., 2009). ©Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.