"We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever."--Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony was a true heroine. If she could only see us now; we've still a ways to go, but we've come a long way since this courageous woman and others like her stood up for their rights and the rights of all women who were to follow. Most of us never give a thought about how it once was for women in this country. Until these brave women stood their ground and fought for us, women couldn't divorce, get custody of their own children, earn their own salary, serve on juries, or play professional sports. Poor women were forced to work in cotton mills foe 12-16 hours daily and were paid $2 a week for all their labor. When a woman married, her husband legally owned all she had...including her jewelry, wages, clothing, and her children. And if the husband died, she was entitled to only a third of his estate. Can you just imagine living that way?
Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15, 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts. Raised in a Quaker family with a long history of activism, Susan grew to become a young woman with a keen sense of justice and moral zeal. She taught school for about 15 years prior to becoming active active in the world of social reforms. Her first involvement was in the anti-slavery movement, followed, by the temperance movement, one of the very first expressions of feminism in the United States. The temperance movement dealt with all the abuses of women and children by alcoholic husbands and fathers. One day while she was attending a temperance meeting, she rose to speak but was refused because "women were not invited there to speak."
That experience, coupled with her meeting of the activist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, led Susan to join the women's rights movement in 1852. Soon thereafter, she dedicated her life to the suffrage movement, never marrying. At one point, Susan went to cast her ballot even though she knew she did not have the right to vote. A police officer went to her home to arrest her, but not wanting to force her, he told her she could go on her own. She refused to turn herself in, and the officer was forced to take her to jail. She was tried, convicted, and fined for illegally casting a ballot.
Despite the opposition and abuse, Susan traveled the country as she ceaselessly campaigned for women's rights. In 1906, with her health failing, she addressed her last suffrage convention. In that, her last public speech, she encouraged the next generation to continue her work. "Failure is impossible" she told her audience. She remained active until her death on March 13, 1906. She was 86 years old.
Her dream came true in 1920 when all adult women won their right to vote with the Nineteenth Amendment...also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. Susan and women like her fought for us; they dedicated their lives to making our lives better. I wonder if...as we women walk into the polling place to cast our ballots...is Susan looking down on us...smiling.
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.