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Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony amer-pol-hist.jpg
Susan B Anthony ca. 1900
Susan Brownell Anthony

February 15, 1820
Died March 13, 1906(1906-03-13) (aged 86)
Rochester, New York, United States
Cause of death Heart failure, pneumonia
Known for Organizing the Seneca Falls convention

Susan B. Anthony (born Susan Anthony; February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906) was an American social reformer and women's rights activist who played a pivotal role in the women's suffrage movement.

Public perception of her changed radically during her lifetime, however. Her 80th birthday was celebrated in the White House at the invitation of President William McKinley. She became the first female citizen to be depicted on U.S. coinage when her portrait appeared on the 1979 dollar coin.

Early life

Susan B. Anthony - Age 28 - Project Gutenberg eText 15220
Headmistress Susan B. Anthony in 1848 at age 28

Susan Anthony was born on February 15, 1820, to Daniel Anthony and Lucy Read in Adams, Massachusetts, the second-oldest of seven children. She was named for her maternal grandmother Susanah, and for her father's sister Susan. In her youth, she and her sisters responded to a "great craze for middle initials" by adding middle initials to their own names. Anthony adopted "B." as her middle initial because her namesake aunt Susan had married a man named Brownell. Anthony never used the name Brownell herself, and did not like it.

Her family shared a passion for social reform.

When Anthony was six years old, her family moved to Battenville, New York, where her father managed a large cotton mill. Previously he had operated his own small cotton factory.

When she was seventeen, Anthony was sent to a Quaker boarding school in Philadelphia, where she unhappily endured its severe atmosphere. She was forced to end her studies after one term because her family was financially ruined during an economic downturn known as the Panic of 1837. They were forced to sell everything they had at an auction, but they were rescued by her maternal uncle, who bought most of their belongings and restored them to the family. To assist her family financially, Anthony left home to teach at a Quaker boarding school.

In 1845, the family moved to a farm on the outskirts of Rochester, New York, purchased partly with the inheritance of Anthony's mother. There they associated with a group of Quaker social reformers who had left their congregation because of the restrictions it placed on reform activities, and who in 1848 formed a new organization called the Congregational Friends. The Anthony farmstead soon became the Sunday afternoon gathering place for local activists, including Frederick Douglass, a former slave and a prominent abolitionist who became Anthony's lifelong friend.


Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (sitting) with Anthony

Born into a Quaker family committed to social equality, she collected anti-slavery petitions at the age of 17. In 1856, she became the New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society.

In 1851, she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who became her lifelong friend and co-worker in social reform activities, primarily in the field of women's rights. When she first began campaigning for women's rights, Anthony was harshly ridiculed and accused of trying to destroy the institution of marriage.

In 1852, they founded the New York Women's State Temperance Society after Anthony was prevented from speaking at a temperance conference because she was female. In 1863, they founded the Women's Loyal National League, which conducted the largest petition drive in United States history up to that time, collecting nearly 400,000 signatures in support of the abolition of slavery.

In 1866, they initiated the American Equal Rights Association, which campaigned for equal rights for both women and African Americans.

In 1868, they began publishing a women's rights newspaper called The Revolution.

In 1869, they founded the National Woman Suffrage Association as part of a split in the women's movement. In 1890, the split was formally healed when their organization merged with the rival American Woman Suffrage Association to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Anthony as its key force. In 1876, Anthony and Stanton began working with Matilda Joslyn Gage on what eventually grew into the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage. The interests of Anthony and Stanton diverged somewhat in later years, but the two remained close friends.

In 1872, Anthony was arrested for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York, and convicted in a widely publicized trial. Although she refused to pay the fine, the authorities declined to take further action.

In 1878, Anthony and Stanton arranged for Congress to be presented with an amendment giving women the right to vote. Introduced by Sen. Aaron A. Sargent (R-CA), it later became known colloquially as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. It was eventually ratified as the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.

Anthony traveled extensively in support of women's suffrage, giving as many as 75 to 100 speeches per year and working on many state campaigns. She worked internationally for women's rights, playing a key role in creating the International Council of Women, which is still active. She also helped to bring about the World's Congress of Representative Women at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

Later life

The house that Susan B. Anthony shared with her sister in Rochester. She was arrested here for voting.

Having lived for years in hotels and with friends and relatives, Anthony agreed to settle into her sister Mary Stafford Anthony's house in Rochester in 1891, at the age of 71. Her energy and stamina, which sometimes exhausted her co-workers, continued at a remarkable level. At age 75, she toured Yosemite National Park on the back of a mule.

She remained as leader of the NAWSA and continued to travel extensively on suffrage work. She also engaged in local projects. In 1893, she initiated the Rochester branch of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union. In 1898, she called a meeting of 73 local women's societies to form the Rochester Council of Women. She played a key role in raising the funds required by the University of Rochester before they would admit women students, pledging her life insurance policy to close the final funding gap.

In 1896, she spent eight months on the California suffrage campaign, speaking as many as three times per day in more than 30 localities. In 1900, she presided over her last NAWSA convention. During the six remaining years of her life, Anthony spoke at six more NAWSA conventions and four congressional hearings, completed the fourth volume of the History of Woman Suffrage, and traveled to eighteen states and to Europe. As Anthony's fame grew, some politicians (certainly not all of them) were happy to be publicly associated with her. Her seventieth birthday was celebrated at a national event in Washington with prominent members of the House and Senate in attendance. Her eightieth birthday was celebrated at the White House at the invitation of President William McKinley.

Death and legacy

Susan B. Anthony died at the age of 86 of heart failure and pneumonia in her home in Rochester, New York, on March 13, 1906. She was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester. At her birthday celebration in Washington, D.C., a few days earlier, Anthony had spoken of those who had worked with her for women's rights: "There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause—I wish I could name every one—but with such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible!" "Failure is impossible" quickly became a watchword for the women's movement.

Anthony did not live to see the achievement of women's suffrage at the national level, but she still expressed pride in the progress the women's movement had made. At the time of her death, women had achieved suffrage in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Idaho, and several larger states followed soon after. Legal rights for married women had been established in most states, and most professions had at least a few women members. 36,000 women were attending colleges and universities, up from zero a few decades earlier." Two years before she died, Anthony said, "The world has never witnessed a greater revolution than in the sphere of woman during this fifty years".

Part of the revolution, in Anthony's view, was in ways of thinking. In a speech in 1889, she noted that women had always been taught that their purpose was to serve men, but "Now, after 40 years of agitation, the idea is beginning to prevail that women were created for themselves, for their own happiness, and for the welfare of the world." Anthony was sure that women's suffrage would be achieved, but she also feared that people would forget how difficult it was to achieve it, as they were already forgetting the ordeals of the recent past:

We shall someday be heeded, and when we shall have our amendment to the Constitution of the United States, everybody will think it was always so, just exactly as many young people think that all the privileges, all the freedom, all the enjoyments which woman now possesses always were hers. They have no idea of how every single inch of ground that she stands upon today has been gained by the hard work of some little handful of women of the past.

Susan B. Anthony, 1894

Anthony's death was widely mourned. Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, said just before Anthony's death, "A few days ago someone said to me that every woman should stand with bared head before Susan B. Anthony. 'Yes,' I answered, 'and every man as well.' ... For ages he has been trying to carry the burden of life's responsibilities alone... Just now it is new and strange and men cannot comprehend what it would mean but the change is not far away."


Halls of Fame

In 1950, Anthony was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. A bust of her that was sculpted by Brenda Putnam was placed there in 1952.

In 1973, Anthony was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.


Hester Jeffrey
Hester C. Jeffrey, who spoke at Anthony's funeral and arranged the creation of a stained glass window as Anthony's first memorial.

The first memorial to Anthony was established by African Americans. In 1907, a year after Anthony's death, a stained-glass window was installed at the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church in Rochester that featured her portrait and the words "Failure is Impossible", a quote from her that had become a watchword for the women's suffrage movement. It was installed through the efforts of Hester C. Jeffrey, the president of the Susan B. Anthony Club, an organization of African American women in Rochester. Speaking at the window's dedication, Jeffrey said, "Miss Anthony had stood by the Negroes when it meant almost death to be a friend of the colored people." This church had a history of involvement in issues of social justice: in 1847, Frederick Douglass printed the first editions of The North Star, his abolitionist newspaper, in its basement.

Marble statue of three suffragists by Adelaide Johnson in the Capitol crypt, Washington, D.C.
Portrait Monument, a statue of Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building. Created by Adelaide Johnson in 1920.

Anthony is commemorated along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott in the Portrait Monument sculpture by Adelaide Johnson at the United States Capitol, unveiled in 1921. Originally kept on display in the crypt of the US Capitol, the sculpture was moved to its current location and more prominently displayed in the rotunda in 1997.

Leila Usher with bas-relief of Susan B. Anthony
Leila Usher, next to the bas-relief of Susan B. Anthony she donated to the National Woman's Party.

In 1922, sculptor Leila Usher donated a bas-relief of Susan B. Anthony to the National Woman's Party, which was installed at their headquarters near Washington, DC. Usher was also responsible for the creation of a similar bronze medallion donated to Bryn Mawr College in 1901.

A sculpture by Ted Aub commemorating the introduction of Anthony to Elizabeth Cady Stanton by Amelia Bloomer on May 12, 1851, was unveiled In 1999. Called "When Anthony Met Stanton", it consists of life-size bronze statues of the three women near Van Cleef Lake in Seneca Falls, New York, where the introduction occurred.

In 2001, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan, one of the world's largest, added a sculpture honoring Anthony and three other heroes of the twentieth century: Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, and Mahatma Gandhi.

An installation artwork by Judy Chicago called The Dinner Party, first exhibited in 1979, features a place setting for Anthony.

A bronze sculpture of a locked ballot box flanked by two pillars marks the place where Anthony voted in 1872 in defiance of laws that prohibited women from voting. Called the 1872 Monument, it was dedicated in August, 2009, on the 89th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment. Leading away from the 1872 Monument is the Susan B. Anthony Trail, which runs beside the 1872 Café, named for the year of Anthony's vote.

Near the Susan B. Anthony Museum and House is the "Let's Have Tea" sculpture of Anthony and Frederick Douglass created by Pepsy Kettavong.

On February 15, 2020, Google celebrated Anthony's 200th birthday with a Google Doodle.


Anthony's home in Rochester is a National Historic Landmark called the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House. The house of her birth in Adams, Massachusetts, and her childhood home in Battenville, New York, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2007, the new Frederick Douglass–Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge replaced the old Troup–Howell Bridge as the main conduit of expressway traffic through downtown Rochester.

Documentary projects

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Papers project was an academic undertaking to collect and document all available materials written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Anthony. The project began in 1982 and has since been ended.

In 1999, Ken Burns and others produced the television documentary Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony.

Banknotes, coins and stamps

Susan B Anthony 3c 1936 issue
Commemorative stamp of Susan B. Anthony issued in 1936.

The US Post Office issued its first postage stamp honoring Anthony in 1936 on the 16th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which ensured women's right to vote. A second stamp honoring Anthony was issued in April 1958.

Anthony dollar coin
U.S. dollar coin with image of Susan. B. Anthony

In 1979, the United States Mint began issuing the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin, the first US coin to honor a female citizen.

The US Treasury Department announced on April 20, 2016, that an image of Anthony would appear on the back of a newly designed $10 bill along with Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul. The original plan was for a woman to appear on the front of the $10 bill, with Anthony under consideration for that position. The final plan, however, calls for Alexander Hamilton, the first US Secretary of the Treasury, to retain his current position there. Designs for new $5, $10 and $20 bills will be unveiled in 2020 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of American women winning the right to vote via the 19th Amendment.

Names of awards and organizations

Since 1970, the Susan B. Anthony Award is given annually by the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women to honor "grassroots activists dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls in New York City."

New York Radical Feminists, founded in 1969, was organized into small cells or "brigades" named after notable feminists of the past. The Stanton-Anthony Brigade was led by Anne Koedt and Shulamith Firestone.

In 1971, Zsuzsanna Budapest founded the Susan B. Anthony Coven #1 – the first feminist, women-only, witches' coven.


Susan B. Anthony Gravestone
Susan B. Anthony's gravestone with “I voted” stickers on it

Susan B. Anthony Day is a commemorative holiday to celebrate the birth of Anthony and women's suffrage in the United States. The holiday is February 15—Anthony's birthday.

In 2016, Lovely Warren, the mayor of Rochester, put a red, white and blue sign next to Anthony's grave on the day after Hillary Clinton obtained the nomination at the Democratic National Convention. The sign stated, "Dear Susan B., we thought you might like to know that for the first time in history, a woman is running for president representing a major party. 144 years ago, your illegal vote got you arrested. It took another 48 years for women to finally gain the right to vote. Thank you for paving the way." The city of Rochester put pictures of the message on Twitter and requested that residents go to Anthony's grave to sign it.

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