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Susan Brownell Anthony


Woman who Changed Women



In the 19th century, she dreamed that American women, who were at the time poorly educated and practically disenfranchised, along with men participated in the formation of public and state order. She was in favor of the woman’s right to vote. It is for this reason that in 1871 the newspapers called her “a person who intends to destroy the foundations of social order no less.”

Nowadays, many women of USA paste stickers on the gravestone of this woman. “If it were not for her, I would never have been able to vote,” they say. It’s about Susan Brownell Anthony, which occupies one of the leading places among the public figures of America of the 20th century. To date, many experts call her the most successful examples, when both types of activities as suffragism and abolitionism were enshrined in the Constitution, becoming the 19th and 13th amendments respectively, and became part of the legislation of most countries in the world.


Main milestones

The famous American suffragette was born on February 15, 1820. Susan was a native of the city of Adams, in the state of Massachusetts. In her three years, a girl already had basic reading and writing skills. Being brought up in the Quaker family, she advocated the abolition of slavery from an early age and denied any racial prejudice. It is worth noting that the Quakers of the 19th century had considerable influence in society, and their views often outstripped existing social trends.

Following her father’s advice, Susan was active in public life and studied political science. According to the head of the family, the girls not only must to receive education on an equal basis with young men but also participate in the life of the community, as far as possible moving away from the role of homemakers. The advanced views of her father influenced not only Susan. So, both her brothers became activists in the abolitionist movement, while her sister Mary supported suffragism.

After graduating from school, in 1845 Susan got a job as a teacher in the state of New York. Working as a lecturer, she repeatedly experienced the burden of gender equality, because the salary level of women at that time was only a quarter of the male one. In addition to norms of the customary law of American women, a principle of distinction between social roles of men and women introduced in the nineteenth century, allowing application of the norms in accordance with gender, was enslaved. Its classical formulation was made in 1873, when the Supreme Court upheld a law of the State of Illinois, which prohibited women from practicing law, stating: “Natural biological differences make women unadapted for certain professions in civil life. Their main area of ​​activity is household and motherhood. A man is or should be the patron and protector of wives and mothers, including future ones”.

Beginning of the struggle

The situation was complicated by terminological confusion in the text of the 14th amendment to the Constitution, adopted in 1868. The latter guaranteed all persons with citizenship equal protection on the basis of the law and prohibited the state legislatures from depriving American citizens of their privileges, but simultaneously reserved a voting right only for male citizens. In 1851, Susan, by chance, met a suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who completely changed her life.

Stanton composed the Declaration of Rights and Feelings, adopted in 1848 by the Congress of Men and Women. The document itself was based on the US Declaration of Independence and emphasized the equality of citizens. True, the “founders” of the American nation, based on its principle of the equality of all people before God, understood by “people” only free men. In 1776, a wife of the future second President of the United States, John Adams, wrote to her husband in Philadelphia and asked that the men who gathered there “do not forget about their ladies in the text.” Spouse joked that the ladies should not forget about the house and children, but inserted in the text of the declaration opening phrase-mine, which exploded two centuries later: “All men and women are created equal.”

As noted by the compilers of the program suffragism document, from the point of view of civil rights and before the law married women are actually equated with the dead. The participants of the Congress also spoke out for refusal from the double moral standard by which women are expelled from society for their retreat, and men are practically not condemned. Elizabeth was not afraid to openly bring charges against men. Historians quote the figure of eighteen. Exactly so many claims the American colonists once proposed to George III. Soon, women became friends and, at once, allies in their struggle for social reforms. They advocated the introduction of a dry law, establishing a women’s sobriety society in New York.

Activation of forces

In 1863, during the civil war in the United States, partners initiated the creation of the Women’s Loyal National League. This organization became famous for conducting the largest petition campaign in American history, presenting about 400 thousand signatures demanding the 13th amendment to the US Constitution in support of the abolition of slavery. In 1866, Susan Anthony, Elizabeth Stanton, and Lucretia Mott established the American Equal Rights Association, which pursued the goal of achieving equality for all US citizens. In 1868, Anthony, with the support of the man-feminist Parker Pillsbury founded a weekly newspaper “Revolution.”

In 1872, Susan was arrested for attempting to vote in the presidential election. Her main argument at the trial was the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which stated that the term “citizen” means “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” It was this definition that gave women a legal right to participate in elections. A penalty of $ 100, appointed by the court, Susan never paid.

In 1876, our friends Anthony and Stanton began collaborating with Matilda Joslin Gage in the work on the six-volume “History of Women’s Electoral Law,” in which they attempted to compile and systematize all documents associated with the development of suffragist movement. In 1890, Susan Anthony was elected president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Susan said that “the oppressed status of a woman includes not only the absence of civil and legal rights but also her sexual exploitation,” which, in turn, is “a consequence of the economic situation and the entire system of social and religious dogmas.” She believed that the unreasonable sexuality of men entailed the degradation of the female sex.


Significant achievements

Having started an active struggle for the civil rights of women, Susan was repeatedly subjected to ridicule and accusations of seeking to “destroy the sacred institution of marriage.” In the XIX century, the idea of legal equality of the sexes sounded sedition for the ears of an enlightened American. Because their legal system was based on the “ordinary” (or precedent) law, borrowed from the British one, according to which “in marriage, husband and wife are a single whole.” Hence it follows that wives cannot have political or economic interests different from husbands’ views. Curiously, one of the most influential lobbyists standing up against the suffragettes in the echelons of power was wine merchants, who feared that a “new electorate” would begin by supporting candidates who favored the dry law.

For 45 years, she traveled the country as part of her campaign, giving about 100 lectures a year. Thanks to excellent education and erudition, Anthony skillfully argued her position, finding the origins of ideas directly in the Constitution. Not surprisingly, in total, Susan was recognized as one of the greatest speakers in the US, whose speeches were collected by thousands of people.

Throughout her life, Susan Anthony fought for a just cause. She died on March 13, 1906, in her home in Rochester. Susan was never married, confident that marriage is a social institution of deprivation of rights. She believed that only girls who neglect their freedom voluntarily agree to this slavish fate. Quite a lot of discussions arose about Susan’s relationship to abortion. But she herself never voiced her opinion.


Memory and glory

Her birthday is rightly considered a holiday of the struggle for the voting rights of American women. And not in vain. Her famous 19 amendment gave rise to an increase in female influence in politics. Susan managed to leave her documentary trail in history and start the “great revolution in the women’s sphere.” She fought for it for more than 50 years and died, never seeing official confirmation. However, in the last speech to the convention in Baltimore, she assured everyone: “Losing is impossible.” Probably, at that time such words sounded desperate. However, 14 years later, after her death, in 1906, when Congress enacted Susan Anthony’s amendment to the Constitution, awarding women the right to vote, her words proved prophetic.

During Susan’s lifetime, the number of women enrolled in higher education in the United States increased from zero to 36,000. Although she did not consider herself an important historical figure, recalling that she was simply guided by morality and common sense. In 1936, the US Post Office issued its first postage stamp in honor of Anthony. And in 1979, a one-dollar coin with her image appeared in circulation. Thus, Susan Brownell Anthony became the first woman depicted on US coins.

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