Sunday, February 14, 2016

Black History Month: Susan B. Anthony

"Wait a minute . . . Susan B. Anthony?  Are you sure you have the right person?  Are you writing during the correct month?  This is Black History Month, not Women's History Month!  Aren't you a little early with this article?"

Yes, this is the Susan B. Anthony, women's rights advocate, champion of the right to vote for women . . . and abolitionist.

Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15, 1820 (196 years ago tomorrow!) in Adams, Massachusetts.  She grew up in a Quaker family and, as a child, developed a strong moral code.  She began her schooling at a Quaker school near Philadelphia.

When her father's business failed many years later, Anthony came back home and became a teacher. In the mid-1840's, the Anthonys moved to the Rochester, New York, area.  They became involved in the abolitionist movement, using their farm as a meeting place for anti-slavery Quakers.  People that joined them were abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass.  Anthony, around that time, was hired as the head of the girls' department at the Canajoharie Academy.

She left Canajoharie in 1849 and started devoting more time to social issues.  When she attended an anti-slavery conference in 1851, she met a woman who would become a lifelong friend and comrade in arms, Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Increasingly, Anthony honed her skills by speaking not only against slavery, but on other social issues, including temperance (limiting or stopping the sale of alcohol.)  When she was denied a chance to speak at a temperance convention simply because she was a woman, she began to realize that she--and other women--wouldn't be taken seriously in politics unless they also had the right to vote.

Beginning in 1852, Anthony began working on behalf of the cause of abolition.  She was active in the American Anti-Slavery Society, becoming an agent for them in 1856.  Her work as an agent put her on the front lines of a battle where she encountered mobs and threats.  She had things thrown at her. She was hung in effigy.  In Syracuse, her image was dragged through the street.

Anthony didn't stop.  She continued to work with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the two of them began to tie together female and black suffrage.  In 1863, they founded the Woman's National Loyal League, which supported the Thirteenth Amendement that abolished slavery, and they also campaigned for full citizenship both for blacks and for women.  Even after the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, Anthony continued to campaign for equal rights for all.  She began to publish The Revolution, a newspaper, in 1868, in which she talked about the cause of equal rights. Later, in Rochester newspapers, she would attack lynchings and racial prejudice.

She died March 13, 1906.

We know Susan B. Anthony as a fighter for the rights of women.  Her name will always be associated with her crusade for equal treatment for her gender and with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.  But her desire for equality was not just for her gender, but for all people, including African-Americans.  When we think of Susan B. Anthony, we should remember her concern for all, both male and female, black and white.

Sources used:

"Her Story : Abolitionist," National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House website 
"Susan B. Anthony Believed In Black Humanity," African-American Registry website 
"Susan B. Anthony," website
"Susan B. Anthony,"
"Women's National Loyal League,"

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