Susan B. Anthony was fortunate enough to be born into a 6th generation Quaker family on February 15th, 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts. Although education was rare for women at this time, her father felt that it was necessary to treat sons and daughter’s equally, so Susan received a good education. Along with becoming educated, Susan was also fortunate to be born into her family because they were active in reform movements which helped to set the standard for her. Because of this, “early in her life she developed a sense of justice and moral zeal.” (SBA House, 2009). Susan would accomplishment many things in her life and championed for anti-slavery, education reform, labor rights, anti-drinking and women’s rights.
Susan B. Anthony grew up in a family that focused on activism for people. She followed in this pattern throughout the rest of her life. Because of her keen interest in people, there is little mentioned about her specific views on nature. Knowing what we do about her though, it is possible to make some assumptions. Susan was born to “Lucy Read Anthony and Daniel Anthony, a cotton-mill owner” (UXL, 1996). This must have given her some respect for the land.
Also, since Susan grew up in a Quaker family, we can assume that she carried Quaker beliefs. Quaker’s felt that life should be simple. Their food and clothing were simple so it took less of a toll on the land. The Quaker’s settled in the United States in Delaware and picked it partially because of the natural values. “The Delaware and the river systems around it were good settings for mills and commercial trading by boat. There were many natural resources in the area, too, with coal, iron, and copper. The fertile soil was good for farming” (Favorable Impressions). The Quaker’s farming skills also kept them in close proximity with the land and helped them develop a reverence for it. They also got along better with the Lenni Lenape Indians in the Delaware Indians. This was partly due to the fact that “Quakers bought land from the Delaware; they did not claim it as their own” (Favorable Impressions).
These beliefs can be seen in Susan as well because a lot of the arguments she made, included her thoughts on the natural rights of people and “Miss Anthony arranged courses of lectures, some through the Lyceum Bureau, especially those of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who had founded the Lyceum for the purpose of securing a freedom of speech not permitted in the churches” (American Atheist, 2012). Emerson was a writer who valued nature and worked a lot of it into his work.
As mentioned above, Susan B. Anthony was raised a Quaker. Because of this she grew up being told that people were equal no matter their gender or race. She received an education and became a teacher, championing for equal wages as her male counterparts. Through her church she joined a group of women called the Daughters of Temperance, who worked hard to strengthen drinking laws. It was also her attendance of the Unitarian Church of William Henry Channing, that “she was invited to the first Women’s Rights Convention, held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848” (American Atheists, 2012). Through her women’s rights work she became acquainted with many women, such as Ernestine L. Rose, Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone, Frances D. Gage and Amelia Bloomer. Many of these women were atheists because they believed church and religion to be sexist. As time went by, in her older years, she became the same. “In an era when god references were frequent, her letters, words and diaries were devoid of the same” (American Atheists, 2001).
Both of these religious views were necessary for Susan. Being born a Quaker helped her to understand the injustices that a lot of people faced based on discrimination. It set the bar for her and then gave her the tools (like education and experiences) needed to help fight it. Even the move to atheism was a right choice though since most religions were not at tolerant of women as hers and because even the Quaker religion was becoming divided on the use of slaves. And although the organizations founded by Susan and her friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton were “‘passed into the hands of a body of conservative women, who believed they could accomplish by prayer what these two women knew could never be done except through legislation with a constituency of women behind it'” (American Atheists, 2012), her new from freedom from religion allowed her move room in getting her hands dirty and breaking the rules.
Susan B. Anthony had a very moderate universal view. She was able to see things at the micro level (trying to secure equal wages for herself, securing religious freedom for herself, etc) but she also dealt with things at the macro level (equal rights for all women, freedom for slaves, cleaner living practices for all, etc.). This also becomes clear by the way that she went about for fighting for certain causes. One example of this is her fight to free the slaves. “In 1856 Anthony became an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society, arranging meetings, making speeches, putting up posters, and distributing leaflets” (SBA House, 2009). In this way Susan focused on changing the problem from within her community amongst her neighbors and friends. She also tried to attack the issue on a larger scale by producing articles against lynching and racial prejudice that were widely circulated.
She took this stance as well during her education reform. Her first paid teaching position was at Canajoharie Academy. Originally Susan’s goal was to get the school to admit and hire more women, which she talked about to school officials and on a larger scale, she even pushed this point at state teacher’s conventions. She spent her time “arguing for coeducation (boys and girls together) and claiming there were no differences between the minds of men and women” (SBA House, 2009). Although she carried on this for a few years, with some success, we can really see her views on her place in the universe expand not just to areas that affected herself (being a women and education) but to others as well. “Anthony called for equal educational opportunities for all regardless of race, and for all schools, colleges, and universities to open their doors to women and people who had been enslaved” (SBA House, 2009).
Susan further made the point that she was just one player on a very large stage, in her interactions with other activists. Although she made a lot of headway for the cause, she realized that it wasn’t her fight alone and she encouraged others working on similar work. She offered them aid, gave them mention in her writings in various newspapers and journals and sent supporters their way. Even after her death, Susan still manages to help in a similar way. “Her canvassing plan is still used today by grassroots and political organizations” (Women in History, 2012).
As a women educated in the Western world, Susan saw time as linear. Although she was aware that she couldn’t change the past, she did try to learn from it and use it to correct potential future mistakes. Growing up a Quaker, Susan was aware of the persecution that people faced. It is part of what made her feel so in tune with women’s suffering and the suffering of African Americans. Knowing that change usually came at a bloody price, Susan fought to correct this and “led the only non-violent revolution in our country’s history” (Women in History, 2012).
Susan was not put off by the changes that time brought; in fact she encouraged them and worked hard to see them come about. “Anthony spent the next fifty-plus years of her life fighting for the right to vote. She would work tirelessly: giving speeches, petitioning Congress and state legislatures, publishing a feminist newspaper–all for a cause that would not succeed until the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment fourteen years after her death in 1906” (Linder, 2001).
Susan was born with advantages that a lot of women did not have during the time period. “Other American women did not experience the freedom and respect Anthony did while growing up. She worked to change that disparity, by becoming a leader in the crusade for women’s rights” (UXL, 1996). Because Susan was able to see the difference between her life style and those that other women had, she was able to see the difference and know that it needed to be changed.
Along with her upbringing, Susan’s personality also helped her in her humanitarian efforts of equality. “Anthony, who never married, was aggressive and compassionate by nature” (SBA House, 2009). Her compassion allowed her to want to help others and her aggressive nature gave her the strength to carry on her fight even with the high amount of opposition that she received. “She was “Aunt Susan,’ the crusader who devoted a lifetime of tireless works to the cause of women’s rights” (Linder, 2001).
Perhaps the first biggest achievement for Susan in the fight for women’s rights was her ability to get them seen as people and not property in the state of New York. ” In 1860, largely as the result of her efforts, the New York State Married Women’s Property Bill became law, allowing married women to own property, keep their own wages, and have custody of their children” (SBA House, 2009). Susan wanted to give women the right to vote so that they could have a say in their government, but she realized that first people must see women as being able to manage their daily rights.
Although Susan’s primary goal was to gain equal rights for women, she saw the short comings for other groups as well. She saw the injustice for laborers, African Americans, etc. Susan found ways to combine her goals with the goals of these groups so that everyone could enjoy equal rights. “In the 1890s, while president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association; Anthony emphasized the importance of gaining the support of organized labor” (SBA House, 2009).
Part of the reason Susan worked for the rights of all was because she felt that helping the other groups achieve their goals would mean more support for her own. The other reason Susan helped was because she felt everyone should be equal. Part of this can be traced back to her Quaker roots. When William Penn helped to make the Quaker colony in the Americas, he too worked for equality for all. “This he [William Penn] did in a manner that land, and the wealth that land brought, would be evenly distributed; This ensured that there would not be a small number of very wealthy landowners” (Favorable Impressions). Long after the original settling, many Quakers still held to these values.
Susan B. Anthony felt strongly that people had to work hard to achieve outcomes and that sitting idly by would not do the trick. Because of this, she believed that a person designed their own fate, their own destiny. “In the 1890s Anthony raised $50,000 in pledges to ensure the admittance of women to the University of Rochester. In a last-minute effort to meet the deadline she put up the cash value of her life insurance policy. The University was forced to make good its promise and women were admitted for the first time in 1900” (SBA House, 2009). Although Susan could have trusted that things would work out and that the school would have been noble, she worked hard and sacrificed her own possessions to see what she desired come true.
Susan again showed us that she wasn’t one to just accept what happens during the trial that ensued when she voted in Rochester, New York in 1872. Although she felt confident she would win, she used the platform and trial to advocate for women’s rights. She eventually lost the trial however, but still did not accept that as an outcome. “Finally, he [the judge] issued the penalty of $100.00 and costs, to which she responded, ‘May it please your honor, I will never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.’-and she never did” (American Atheist, 2012).
Susan B. Anthony began life as a Quaker and respected natural law, god’s law and man’s law. As Susan grew older she became more aware of the injustices that people suffered based on man’s law. “More than any other woman of her generation, Susan B. Anthony saw that all of the legal disabilities faced by American women owed their existence to the simple fact that women lacked the vote” (Linder, 2001). It was because of this awareness, that most of her work to fight injustice, involved changing the law.
Susan participated in one such incidence of this when her, and other women she recruited, placed their voting ballots in an election. For this, Susan came under formal charges. Rather than being arrested, Susan was called upon a few days after the event. “He hemmed and hawed and finally said Mr. Storrs wanted to see me….’what for?’ I asked. ‘To arrest you.’ said he. ‘Is that the way you arrest men?’ ‘No.’ Then I demanded that I should be arrested properly” (Linder, 2001). Although Susan worked hard to show the injustices of the law, she herself did not live the same double standard. She broke the law and wanted the same punishment that the justice system would dole out for someone she was trying to gain equal footing with.
Susan felt that the injustice of man’s law was dangerous because it interfered with the other laws that she strongly believed in. This can be witnessed in the testimony she gave during the trial for the aforementioned crime. “‘Yes, your honor, I have many things to say; for in your ordered verdict of guilty, you have trampled underfoot 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'” (Linder, 2001).
“UXL Biographies: Susan B Anthony.” Women’s History. Gale Cengage Learning, 1996. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. http://www.gale.cengage.com/free_resources/whm/bio/anthony_s.htm>.
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Linder, Doug. “The Trial of Susan B. Anthony.” UMKC School of Law. UMKC, 2001. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.
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Linder, Doug. “The Susan B. Anthony Trial.” UMKC School of Law. UMKC, 2012. Web. 23 Mar. 2012.