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WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH: Susan B. Anthony

Karthika S Nair | Mar 28 2020
Image credits: wikimedia

Susan B. Anthony: Women's Rights Activist Who Dared  

 

"The true republic; men, their rights and nothing more. women, their rights and nothing less." - Susan B Anthony. 

During the 2016 United States presidential elections, a lot of women went to the grave of Susan B Anthony to stick their "I voted" card. This was done as a tribute to a woman who fought for their rights and paved the way for the participation of women in governance. Women hoped to see a lady commander-in-chief that year as former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was running for president.  

She lost to her rival Donald Trump in the election; but the presence of women at Susan B Anthony's grave became international headlines.  

At her time, Susan and her group had to face all kinds of mocking and brickbats for demanding their share of rights as they resisted being treated as secondary citizens. She kept fighting on and women who vote today, owe a lot to her.  

She had been the woman who dared.  

 

Early Life And Social Reform Involvement 

 

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Image credit: wikimedia

Susan was born on February 15, 1820 to Daniel and Lucy in Adams, Massachusetts. She and her siblings were interested in social reforms. Her brothers supported the anti-slavery movement in Kansas. Her father was also an abolitionist. He encouraged all his sons and daughters to be independent, self-supporting and responsible.  

She was forced to end her studies as a teenager as her family faced an economic downfall. Soon she became involved with social reforms by attending services at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester. 

When Susan started working, she noticed that she was paid less than her male counterparts. Though she was not into politics or voting rights, she wanted equal pay for the amount of work she put into.  

And back then, women had to wear long dresses which dragged the ground under them, severely restricting their body movement. Susan refused to wear it and she sported the bloomer or the Turkish dress which was controversial at the time.  

 

Feminism And Women's Suffrage  

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Image credit: wikimedia

Susan became a reformist and joined forces with Elizabeth Cady Stanton to get women's suffrage. They formed the women's movement by organizing and writing more.  

A group of women held a convention at Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 that was the first 

Women’s Rights Convention in the United States and it kickstarted the suffrage movement.  

Susan traveled to different places and demanded that women be given the right to vote. She faced ridicule from men who mocked women's suffrage. Some men even threatened her and Susan risked arrests several times.  

But Susan's charisma, energy and ability to organise made her a strong leader. Along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she founded the American Equal Rights Association and released 'The Revolution' which mentioned women's right to equality.  

Congress passed 14th and 15th resolutions which gave African American men the right to vote but Susan was angry about women being sidelined.  

Both Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton went on to form the National Woman Suffrage Association which demanded women's right to vote.  

 

Vote And Arrest  

 

Her belief and movement earned national attention when she was arrested and fined for trying to vote in 1872. People were angry and many expressed their support for women's suffrage. In 1876, she led a protest and gave a speech about how women's rights should not be treated less while men's rights should not be treated as more.  

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She was an active activist until 1900, travelling and giving speeches. She died in 1906, 14 years before women were given the right to vote.  

Congress passed a resolution in 1920 which gave women the right to vote in elections. Voting rights are important as people dictate the leaders they want to represent them and their needs.  

The participation of men who believed that women were not equal often disregarded women's rights and participation.  

Susan B Anthony had wished to live for another century to finally see women casting their votes; but it didn't materialise. 

 

Criticisms And Views  

 

However, there were criticisms directed at both Susan B Anthony And Elizabeth Stanton for not fighting hard enough for African American women. 

Elizabeth Stanton was recorded to be an internalised racist who expressed dissatisfaction when African-American men got the right to vote. The Suffrage movement was described as a whitewashing movement as Black women were not mentioned.  

Susan B Anthony's views on women's right to safe reproduction and abortion rights were never clearly mentioned. There were debates regarding her views where she was a critic of abortion rights.  

Susan's views on marriage were criticised by conservative men. She believed that women should not be subjugated and should be an equal. If women don't concede to their husbands who treat them badly then men will have no other choice.  

She was accused of trying to destroy an institution. The feminist movement was often slammed in that regard by conservative men, notably the comment which described feminism as a movement that encouraged women to leave their husbands and kill children.  

 

Legacy 

 

Susan B Anthony was invited by President William McKinley to the white house to celebrate her 80th birthday. She was in the slave abolition movement. The first tribute to her was given by African Americans.  

A stained-glass window was installed at the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Rochester that featured her portrait a year after her death. The portrait had a caption "failure is impossible." 

Adelaide Johnson, at the United States Capitol, unveiled sculptures of Susan B Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott in 1921, a year after women were given the right to vote.  

In 1936 on the 16th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which ensured women's right to vote, the U.S. Post Office issued its first postage stamp honoring her. 

In 1979, her portrait was given on US dollar coin, the first woman civilian to be featured on it.