Susan B. Anthony

July 12, 2018
When Anthony sat for this portrait in 1850, she was active in the antislavery movement and hosted frequent abolitionist meetings at her family farm in Rochester, New York.
COURTESY OF LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Susan B. Anthony (February 15, 1820—March 13, 1906) was a pioneer in the movement for women’s suffrage in the United States. She laid the foundation for the 19th Amendment, which granted American women the right to vote.

Susan B. Anthony was raised in a Quaker family that believed in equality. When she was 6 years old, her family moved from Massachusetts to a farm in New York. By age 19, she was teaching at a school in New Rochelle, New York. Six years later, she went to live with her parents and siblings at their family home in Rochester, New York, where they were active in the fight to end slavery. In 1851, Anthony attended an abolitionist meeting in Seneca Falls, New York. There, she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a fierce advocate for equal rights. Three years earlier, Stanton had organized the Seneca Falls Convention. It was the first national women’s-rights conference. Anthony and Stanton formed an immediate bond. They began working together to abolish slavery and extend rights to African Americans and women.

A Push for Equality

During the Civil War, which was fought from 1861 to 1865, Anthony and Stanton formed the Women’s Loyal National League (WLNL). It was the first national women’s political organization. The WLNL gathered 400,000 signatures to convince Congress to ratify the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery. After the war, Anthony campaigned for the 14th and 15th Amendments. The 14th Amendment granted citizenship and “equal protection of the laws” to all persons “born or naturalized in the United States.” As a result, citizenship was extended to all former slaves. The 15th Amendment gave African-American men the right to vote. Anthony was deeply disappointed that neither amendment included language extending these protections to women. Although Anthony and Stanton faced a lack of widespread support for women’s suffrage, they felt inspired to continue fighting for it. In 1868, they began publishing The Revolution. The magazine made the case for women’s rights. A year later, Anthony and Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). The organization was dedicated to passing a constitutional amendment that would guarantee voting rights for women.

Challenging the Law

In November 1872, Anthony made national headlines when she was arrested for illegally voting in the presidential election. Anthony was found guilty, and the judge imposed a $100 fine. While in the courtroom, Anthony defiantly told the judge that she would “never pay a dollar of [the] unjust penalty.” She added, “And I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women . . . that resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.” Anthony never paid the fine. After her arrest, Anthony continued to travel and raise awareness about women’s rights. On July 4, 1876, the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the NWSA adopted a Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States. It said, “We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever.” Aside from advocating for women’s suffrage, Anthony also campaigned for women to be able to own property, earn equal pay, and hold public office.

The Fight Must Not Cease

Throughout her adulthood, Anthony was a passionate advocate for abolition and women’s rights. In February 1906, she made her last speech, during a convention in Baltimore, Maryland. “I am here for a little time only, and then my place will be filled,” she said. “The fight must not cease. You must see that it does not stop. Failure is impossible.” Anthony died a month later. But her tireless efforts inspired others to carry on the struggle for women’s rights in the U.S. It would take another 15 years for Congress to ratify the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. In 1979, Anthony’s contributions to the equal-rights movement were honored when she became the first woman to appear on a circulating U.S. coin. Although the U.S. Treasury stopped producing the Susan B. Anthony coin in 1991, it is still in circulation today.