Susan Brownell Anthony was introduced to civil rights at a young age. Her father was a liberal Quaker and the Anthony family's opposition to slavery, respect for women's equality, and involvement in activism would influence Susan greatly.
Susan's first involvement in reform was with the Daughters of Temperance, a secret society formed when the Sons of Temperance refused to allow women to participate. She began attending antislavery meetings and developing friendships with other female activists, finding inspiration in their ideas and their bravery to speak them. It was not long before she realized that women's influence could be of little help in political action. Women needed the vote.
Susan traveled across the country, often alone and in harsh conditions, to attend and speak at conventions, meet with politicians, and to spread the idea of women's rights to anyone who would listen. When the country was on the brink of the Civil War, Susan dedicated her work to the abolitionist movement. She petitioned, dangerously placing herself at the center of mobs and violence, helping to gain 400,000 signatures against slavery. When the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, Susan thought finally it must be the time for women. But many she had admired and worked alongside cautioned her that to enfranchise former slaves and women at the same time was too much. Women must wait.
Susan disagreed. They had waited long enough. Women wanted the right to own property and sign contracts, education and job opportunities, and equal pay. Women wanted the right to divorce and rights to their children. In 1872, Susan and fourteen other women in Rochester registered to vote and cast their ballots in a congressional election. They were arrested less than two weeks later. Susan was the only woman to go to trial and when sentenced to pay a fine, she refused. Susan was never able to legally vote but she did find victory in women's education, the promise of voting rights in four states, and in inspiring a new generation to carry the women's suffrage movement. The Nineteenth Amendment allowing women to vote was passed fourteen years after her death. - Kelly Longhurst
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