Susan B Anthony and Women’s Rights Movement

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The American women’s rights movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries sought to give women the same rights and privileges as men. At this time, many believed ‘that women belonged in the home while men [belonged in] the world outside’ (‘Expanding’). Women grew tired of being treated as objects who were created to make dinner, wash clothes, and birth babies. They wanted to be treated as equals to men. Susan B. Anthony played a key role in this movement by advocating for the rights of women everywhere. People constantly told her to stop fighting and just accept the fact that women would never be equal to men. Despite the opposition she faced, Susan B. Anthony’s involvement in the women’s rights movement changed America forever.

Susan B. Anthony grew up in a household that differed from the world around her. She was born in 1820 to her Quaker father, Daniel Anthony, and Baptist mother, Lucy Read Anthony (Weisberg 23). At this time, Quakers looked down upon ”[marrying] out of meeting’…, but when Anthony fell in love with [Lucy Read], he courted her anyway’ (23). This may seem normal in modern times; however, this was one of the most rebellious things someone could do during Anthony’s time. Anthony often went against society’s normal beliefs. People viewed him as someone who ‘[thought] for himself… even when [it led to] judgment [from] his fellow Quakers’ (Lutz 5).

Anthony did not care about following the social norm. He served as a rebellious role model for Susan by showing that it was okay to not follow certain rules if they seemed wrong in her eyes. Witnessing her father participate in somewhat ‘rebellious’ acts showed her that it was acceptable to go against the status quo. Besides growing up in a household with rebellion as its foundation, Susan also grew up with the Quaker faith. Quakers openly ‘believed in equality between men and women’ (Martinez). This foundation of her faith went against what society generally believed. Because men were considered more valuable than women, society offered them more opportunities than women.

Society often limited women by telling them what they could do and who they could be. However, Susan and other Quakers believed that men and women were created equally and therefore should be treated as equals. Although she and many people around her believed in equality, she often missed out on opportunities and experiences because of her gender. One time, ‘a male school teacher refused to teach [Susan] long division’ because, in his eyes, it only suited boys (Martinez).

In the nineteenth century, women simply cared for and raised children; therefor, in her teacher’s eyes, teaching Susan a more complex form of math would waste both of their time. Susan simply wanted to further her education and learn more about something she showed interest in; however, because of her gender, she had the right to learn taken away from her. This early experience in her life prepared Susan for a lifetime of discrimination based on her sex. Many of her driving factors towards fighting for equality came from events and influences of her childhood.

Susan B. Anthony fought for women’s rights in many different ways. She often traveled around the country giving lectures to encourage people to fight for women’s rights in places such as New York, Indiana, and Utah (Snodgrass). At the time of these lectures, women were ‘expected to marry;… [however] upon marriage, a woman lost the basic right to own anything in her name’ (‘Expanding’). A woman’s possessions, wealth, and property immediately became her husband’s. She had all her hard-earned possessions ripped away from her and given to her husband.

While in marriage women could not have anything to themselves, ‘it was nearly impossible for any woman to support herself’ outside of marriage(‘Expanding’). In society’s eyes, women were born with the sole purpose of becoming a mother. Many employers would not hire women, and the jobs that would hire them often did not have give them enough money to survive off of (‘Expanding’). Even though ‘she had been in love many times,’ Susan ‘shied away from matrimony’ in order to not ‘become a poor man’s drudge or a wealthy man’s trophy wife’ (Snodgrass).

Susan sacrificed love and marriage so that she could lead by example. She wanted to be self-sufficient, and she knew that she could not do that if she got married. Susan disagreed with the idea that women could not be independent and successful, so at her lectures, she ‘bombarded officials with demands that women [should control] their wealth, property, and children and that they [deserve to participate] fully in national events by voting in elections’ (Snodgrass). These lectures made Susan B. Anthony a household name. Whether people loved her or hated her, everyone knew her name and talked about her actions (Snodgrass).

In addition to going on lecture tours and persuading people to join the fight, Susan also ‘appeared before Congress every year…to petition for suffrage’ beginning in 1869 (Martinez). She started off by talking to them about life as a single American woman; however, in 1878, ‘[Susan] presented a suffrage amendment to Congress’ which later ‘became the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution’ (Martinez). She not only talked about fighting and standing up to officials, but she actually went and stood before Congress once a year for 37 years and fought for women all across the nation.

She presented them a real, viable option to solve this equality problem. Susan also helped to ‘[organize] the first Woman Suffrage Convention in Washington, D.C.,’ and she ‘created a unified group, the National American Woman Suffrage Association’ where she ‘served as vice president and then president’ (Martinez). For many people, Susan was the face of the women’s rights movement. However, Susan did not want the praise and glory that came from a leadership position, but rather, she simply wanted to unify the women of America by giving them a common cause to fight for.

One of the most famous ways Susan fought for women was when she insisted on voting in the 1872 elections. At this time, women did not have the right to vote; however, ‘on November 1, 1872 [Susan] and her three sisters walked into a barbershop in Rochester, New York, where a voter registration office…had been set up’ (‘The Right’). At first, the registration team denied her petition. After about an hour, however, they came around, and four days later, Susan and her sisters voted for the first time in the 1872 presidential election (‘The Right’). Even though this vote took a huge stride toward obtaining equal rights for American women, this victory did not last long.

Two weeks after she voted for the first time, Susan was arrested because ‘she had ‘knowingly, wrongfully, and unlawfully voted…contrary to the form of the statute and against the peace of the United States of America” (Weisberg 16). Had she pleaded guilty, she most likely would have been set free with minimal consequences. However, Susan pleaded not guilty because she believed that the Constitution gave her the right to vote. Susan believed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment guarantee ‘all persons born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the United States’ and ‘the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied’ (Weisberg 14-15).

These two amendments show that since women are considered citizens, they should have the right to vote. The fact that Susan had been denied the right to vote was, in her eyes, unconstitutional. About six months later on June 17, 1873, ‘Anthony was brought to trial before Ward Hunt, a judge well known for his strong anti-feminist views’ (Weisberg 19). From the start of the trial, Susan had an unfair disadvantage. Besides having a judge against her ethically, she also had an all-male jury (‘The Right’). Also, Hunt denied her the right to testify for herself (Weisberg 19).

Before the trial even started, ‘the judge wrote his opinion and the all-male jury’s verdict…and fined [Susan] $100 for illegal voting’ (Martinez). Susan’s lawyer asked for Judge Hunt to have the jury vote because he believed Hunt took away Susan’s right to a jury. However, Hunt refused and kept the verdict the same without asking the jury (‘The Right’). Before dismissing, Hunt asked Susan if she had anything to say to which she replied:

Yes, your honor, I have many things to say; for in your ordered verdict of guilty, you have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored. Robbed of the fundamental privilege of citizenship, I am degraded from the status of a citizen to that of a subject; and not only myself individually, but all of my sex, are, by your honor’s verdict, doomed to political subjection under this, so-called, form of government. (‘The Right’)

Her verdict did not stop her from fighting for what she believed in. She strongly believed the Constitution supported her vote, and she would not apologize or do anything to remotely admit she was wrong. Although found guilty and fined by Hunt, Susan declared that she would ‘never pay a dollar of [Hunt’s] unjust penalty’ (Weisberg 20). The world around her told her that she committed a wrong and unlawful act, but she believed that she did the right thing. She did not conform to the world by paying her fine. This verdict did not stop her from fighting for the rights she believed women deserved.

Susan B. Anthony left a wonderful legacy of empowered women behind her. Before she died in 1906, she continued her passion of going before Congress every year to petition for women’s rights (Martinez). Sadly, she did not see the fulfillment of what she had spent the majority of her life fighting for. However, 14 years after Susan passed away, the Nineteenth Amendment, which gives women the right to vote, was added to the Constitution (‘The Right’). Because of Susan’s involvement in the women’s rights movement, ‘the Nineteenth Amendment also became known as the Anthony Amendment’ (‘The Right’).

Susan gave women a voice when for so long they were silent. American women use their voices by voting in every election. In 2016, a reported 73.7 million women voted in the presidential election. Women had a 4% greater voter turnout in this election than men did (”Gender’). Women do not let their freedom go to waste. They use their voices and votes in deciding the future of their country. Not only can women now vote for who becomes president, but in 2016, The United States had its first female presidential candidate: Hillary Clinton.

Women running for president and other leadership positions exemplify the ideals Susan fought for by showing they are just as worthy to become a leader as any man in the country. Women across the nation want to honor and thank Susan for the freedom she helped to bring them. For years, many female voters have gone to Susan’s gravesite in Rochester, New York, and put their ‘I Voted’ stickers on her grave; however, in 2016, ‘[visiting hours] were extended as visitors, for the first time in history, could [put their sticker] for a female presidential nominee on her tombstone’ (Kingston 39).

The freedom Susan fought for turned out much greater and powerful than anything she could have wished for. She always hoped that one day women would get to play a part in the lawmaking aspect of our country. She believed that ‘there [would never be] complete equality until women themselves [helped make] laws’ (Kingston 39). However, the power and influence women now have over our country succeeds anything Susan could have planned for. Women change our country in big ways. They have seats in Congress. They run for president. Most importantly, however, they use their voices. None of this would have happened without the power and influence of Susan B. Anthony.

Susan B. Anthony’s fight for equality changed America forever. The most wonderful part of her fight is that she fought for every woman in America. She fought for the women who could not fight for themselves. She fought for the woman who sits at home with her kids while her husband goes to work. She fought for the girls who want to grow up and become president. She fought for future congresswomen. She fought for every woman regardless of her dreams or goals. She fought for generations of women behind her. Her influence still empowers women all across the nation today. Her actions and words still hold significant meaning. She fought, and for that, America changed forever.

Works Cited

  1. “Expanding Women’s Rights.” Issues & Controversies in American History, Infobase, 2015. History, online.infobase.com/Auth/Index?aid=15149&itemid=WE52&articleId=1009441.
  2. ‘Gender Differences in Voter Turnout.’ Center for American Women and Politics, 2017, cawp.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/resources/genderdiff.pdf.
  3. Kingston, Anne, and Scott Gilmore. “The Grief of Susan B. Anthony.” Maclean’s, vol. 129, no. 46, Nov. 2016, pp. 39. EBSCOhost, dcccd.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.dcccd.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=120041127&site=ehost-live.
  4. Lutz, Alma. Susan B. Anthony: Rebel, Crusader, Humanitarian. Zenger, 1959, gutenberg.org/files/20439/20439-h/20439-h.htm.
  5. Martinez, Donna. “Anthony, Susan B.” American Women Leaders and Activists, Second Edition, 2016. History, online.infobase.com/Auth/Index?aid=15149&itemid=WE52&articleId=164272.
  6. “The Right to Vote.” Issues & Controversies in American History, Infobase, 2015. History, online.infobase.com/Auth/Index?aid=15149&itemid=WE52&articleId=1009554.
  7. Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. “Anthony, Susan B.” Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature, Second Edition, Facts On File, 2013. History, online.infobase.com/Auth/Index?aid=15149&itemid=WE52&articleId=33509.
  8. Weisberg, Barbara. Susan B. Anthony: Woman Suffragist. Chelsea House Publishers, 1988.

Cite this paper

Susan B Anthony and Women’s Rights Movement. (2021, Dec 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/susan-b-anthony-and-womens-rights-movement/

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