Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Susan B. Anthony was born in Adams, Massachusetts. At the age of six she moved with her family to Battenville, New York, where her father ran a cotton mill. The mill was not a financial success, and the Anthonys relocated in 1845 to a farm outside Rochester. In 1846 Anthony left Rochester to teach school in Canajoharie, New York; she returned in 1849 to manage the family farm. Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips were frequent guests in the Anthony home, and her interest naturally turned to the reform movements of the day. She began her public career in the temperance and abolitionist movements. As a teacher, she learned that men and women were not given equal pay for equal work; as a reformer she learned that women were not allowed to hold leadership positions, or even speak in public. Beginning in 1852, when she attended her first woman's rights convention in Syracuse, Anthony dedicated her life to securing political, civil, and economic equality for women.
With her earnings from teaching school, Susan B. Anthony purchased a set of china for her mother.
On June 17, 1852 the New York State Temperance Society met in Syracuse for its annual convention. Susan B. Anthony, Gerrit Smith, and Amelia Bloomer were delegates appointed to the convention by the Woman's State Temperance Society, which Anthony had founded the previous April. Because the convention refused to accept the credentials of the women delegates or allow them to speak, the women and their supporters adjourned to the Wesleyan Chapel where they held their own meeting. Anthony delivered a speech, which was published in the July, 1852 issue of the Lily. It is one of her earliest addresses.
(From the collection of the Susan B. Anthony House.)
In the winter of 1853, Susan B. Anthony inaugurated a petition campaign to help secure for married women the right to retain their own wages and have equal guardianship of their children. In 1854 she presented to the New York State Legislature petitions containing 10,000 signatures.
Writing to Buffalo attorney George W. Jonson, Anthony asks "How may women in the State of New York be placed on the ground of Legal Equality with men?" and requested his assistance in drawing up forms of petitions to present to the Legislature.
Susan B. Anthony writes on September 18, 1854 to the feminist author and Suffragist Elizabeth Oakes Smith about her book Bertha and Lily: "I seldom read a romance, my nature is too practical, too utilitarian but there is not a sentence in Bertha & Lily but tells for the progress of the true & the right."
On October 1, 1855 Susan B. Anthony wrote to Amy Post that she has lined up Wendell Phillips, Theodore Parker, William Lloyd Garrison, and Charles Lenox Remond as speakers for a series of anti-slavery lectures to be given in Rochester in November. The letter was written from the Worcester Hydropathic Institute, where Anthony was supposedly resting and recuperating from a back ailment.
Susan B. Anthony in 1856, at the age of thirty-six.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born in Johnstown, New York. Her father Daniel Cady was a lawyer who later became a judge on the New York Supreme Court. Stanton graduated from Troy Female Seminary in 1832. Through her cousin Gerrit Smith she became involved in the temperance and anti-slavery movements; in 1840 she married the abolitionist Henry B. Stanton. Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first woman's rights convention, which met in July, 1848 in Seneca Falls, where Stanton lived with her husband and seven children. Stanton was a liberal thinker who challenged women to overcome any barrier of state or church that limited their sphere.
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton met in 1851. They remained friends and collaborators in the women's rights movement for the next fifty years. Stanton was the theoretician of the cause, Anthony its organizer. Stanton wrote of their relationship:
In thought and sympathy we were one, and in the division of labor we exactly complimented each other. I am the better writer, she the better critic. She supplied the facts and statistics, I the philosophy and rhetoric, and together we have made arguments that have stood unshaken through the storms of long years; arguments that no one has answered.
Eighty Years and More
Stanton was the first woman to speak before the New York State Legislature. In her address she outlined the legal disabilities of women and the need to broaden the married women's property laws.
Enclosed is a form of Petition as drawn by Mrs. Stanton - Does it meet your approbation? Would it not be well to insert after under signed in the last paragraph the words Men & Women Petition. Please make such suggestions as you think best. Enclosed also is the Call for our Saratoga W.R. Convention - if convenient for you, will you call the attention of your Editors to the notice - they will without doubt publish it gratuitously - all of our Editors have done so. I hope to see you & Mrs. Bingham at our Saratoga meeting.
Yours Respectfully Susan B. Anthony
During the Civil War the leaders of the woman's movement suspended agitation on behalf of their own rights in order to concentrate on the abolition of slavery. On May 14, 1863, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton called a meeting of the Women's National Loyal League. The League gathered hundreds of thousands of petitions calling for a Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery.
Anthony wrote this letter to Post using the verso of a printed copy of Stanton's "Call for a meeeting of the loyal women of the nation" (page three of the image).
Stanton and Anthony often led the way on controversial issues. At the 1860 Woman's Rights Convention Stanton made several resolutions in favor of divorce under certain circumstances. The resolutions caused a furor. Even such staunch supporters as Wendell Phillips backed away from the divorce question. In this letter of June 5, 1860 to Susan B. Anthony he writes: I note what you say about "Marriage & Divorce" & have read what Mrs. Stanton says--of course it is no right & no wish of mine to dictate what shall be our platform…[but] whatever it is understood that the platform will include these questions I shall have nothing to do with the Convention - & wish my name wholly disconnected therefrom.
Ida Husted Harper. The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony. (Indianapolis, 1899 [volumes 1 and 2]; 1908 [volume 3]).
A New York State Constitutional Convention was held in June, 1867. During the last months of 1866 and the beginning of 1867, Anthony and Stanton organized a series of meetings throughout the state "to adopt measures to engraft the principle of universal suffrage upon the constitution of the state." With this letter Anthony enclosed a press release announcing the meeting to be held in Rochester on December 11, 1866. Speakers were to include Stanton, Lucy Stone, Charles Lenox Remond, and Frederick Douglass. Notice that working women were offered free tickets.
In 1867, Kansas held a referendum on black and woman suffrage. Stanton and Anthony went there to campaign for woman suffrage. When their old allies in the Republican Party would not support them, they accepted the help of George Francis Train, a flamboyant Democrat with very eccentric ideas. After the referendum was defeated in Kansas, Train sponsored a lecture tour by Stanton, Anthony, and himself. This is a ticket for their appearance at Corinthian Hall in Rochester on December 2, 1867.
When the National Labor Congress met on September 21, 1868, in New York City, Anthony attended as a delegate of the Workingman's Association. In this letter to the Rochester chapter, she urges them to send delegates to the Congress.
Susan B. Anthony, circa 1866.
A letter dated October 26, 1869 from Lucy Stone to Amy Post inviting Mrs. Post to attend the first convention of the American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1869 the suffrage movement split over tactical and philosophical differences. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Suffrage Association. Their organization worked for the defeat of the fifteenth amendment if it did not include women. They also supported more lenient divorce laws and organizing working women into unions. Lucy Stone declares in this letter that the American Association "will not attack the 15th Amendment nor complicate the question of woman suffrage with side issues." The two associations did not reconcile until 1890, when they joined forces to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
The Revolution first appeared in January, 1868 with Susan B. Anthony as publisher, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Parker Pillsbury as co-editors. The paper's articles and editorials reflected their radical views on issues affecting the political, social, sexual, economic, and educational status of women. George Francis Train promised to finance the papers but he was jailed in Ireland for his political views. Without his backing, The Revolution went into debt, and in 1870 Anthony was forced to give up the paper. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, on naming the Revolution:
There could not be a better name than Revolution. The establishing of woman on her rightful throne is the greatest revolution the world has every known or ever will know. To bring it about is no child's play… a journal called the Rosebud might answer for those who come with kid gloves and perfumes to lay immortal wreaths on the monuments which in sweat and tears others have hewn and built; but for us and for that great blacksmith of ours [Parker Pillsbury] who forges such red-hot thunderbolts for Pharisees, hypocrites, and sinners there is no name like the Revolution.
In August, 1866, a year and a half before the first issue of The Revolution appeared, Anthony wrote Edwin A. Studwell of her hopes and plans for a newspaper devoted to the promotion of equal rights.
On January 8, 1868, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote to Thurlow Weed, editor of another New York City newspaper, the Commercial Advertiser. She asked him to "please notice with favor our new Paper." Stanton reminded Weed that she and Anthony had done much to change the "odious laws" of New York State, and deserved "a little courtesy from the men of this state."
On November 1, 1872, Susan B. Anthony, her three sisters, and fifteen other Rochester women registered to vote after persuading the election inspectors that the Fourteenth Amendment gave them that right. Four days later they cast their ballots, and on November 18, Anthony was arrested for illegal voting.
She was tried in Canandaigua the following June. A hostile judge refused to allow her to testify, dismissed the jury, found her guilty, and fined her $100. Although she refused to pay the fine, the judge did not imprison Anthony, thus preventing her from appealing the case to a higher court.
Rochester Nov. 12th 1872
My Dear Young Friend
Yes you shall have the Autograph of the first woman who legally registered and voted in the state of New York under the 14th Amendment, which lifts the [freedom] franchise of the citizen above the power of the states to deny, as did the 13th freedom of the person.
All persons are citizens--and no state shall deny or abridge the citizen rights--
Susan B. Anthony
In this printed letter, Gerrit Smith assures Susan B. Anthony that he supports her decision to vote under the Fourteenth Amendment.
For the Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia on July 4, 1876, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage wrote a Declaration of Rights to be read at the official proceedings, but their request to present it was denied.
Undaunted, Anthony and four other women decided to go ahead with their plan. When the Declaration of Independence had been read, Anthony and the other women rose from their seats and marched down the aisle to the speakers' rostrum. Here Anthony presented the Declaration to Vice-President Thomas W. Ferry. The women then proceeded back down the aisle while scattering printed copies of the Declaration to the audience.
During her nine-month trip to the British Isles and Europe, Anthony met with many feminists and laid plans for the 1888 meeting of the International Council of Women.
Stanton sends suggestions to Anthony for organizing the first International Council of Women, which met in Washington, DC the following year.
To commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, an International Council of Women was held in Washington, DC in 1888.
The volumes are inscribed by Anthony to the minister of her church, William Channing Gannett, and his wife Mary Lewis Gannett. Both were close friends and suffragists.
In May, 1892, the First Unitarian Church of Rochester celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Though born a Quaker, Susan B. Anthony attended the Unitarian Church for many years. In this greeting she wrote to be read at the Celebration, Anthony declares that "One of the pleasantest memories of Rochester--my home--the past forty years--are associated with the ministers & friends who will have honorable and loving mention during the you’re the gatherings of these two days."
Gold stick pins and fruit knife owned by Susan B. Anthony.
Bronze Susan B. Anthony medallion sold to raise funds for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. "Failure is Impossible--Susan B. Anthony" on reverse side.
Postcards of Susan B. Anthony's home, 17 Madison Street, Rochester, and of Anthony sitting at her desk. The Anthony House is now a National Historic Landmark and museum.
Plaster-of-Paris Susan B. Anthony plaque commissioned by her sister Mary S. Anthony.
Susan B. Anthony wrote to Rachel Foster Avery on May 19, 1897: "Have you read my article in the May Arena--on 'Woman's Status past, present, & future'....The Friends--even in Oakland Cal.-- write how much good it has done them--Have you read it?"
In the speech, Stanton called for economic cooperation as the only means to bring about "equal rights for all." The speech reflects Stanton's belief that suffrage alone was too narrow, and all social, civil, religious, economic, and political institutions must be reformed to improve the condition of women.
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton on the front porch of the Anthony House, ca 1901.
(From the collection of the Susan B. Anthony House)
William Channing Gannett presided over the funeral of Susan B. Anthony. In this letter, written on March 16, 1906, three days after Anthony's death, he describes the event: The services yesterday were simple, heart felt & impressive--college girls acting as "Honorary Bearers" and other girls as Guard of Honor as she lay in State in the Church while the people for three hours streamed through to look upon her face. The congregation filled [Central Church]--one of the largest in the city--to the doors & windows, while others stood outside in falling snow for the hour or two the service lasted…It does not seem like death, does it, - to move people so…