"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."
~ Susan B. Anthony
Susan Brownwell Anthony was born on February 15, 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts. Her parents were Daniel and Lucy Read Anthony. She was the second of their seven children; they named her for one of her father's sisters, Susan Anthony Browwnell.
Daniel Anthony was the oldest of nine children of Humphrey and Hannah Lapham Anthony of Adams. Daniel attended Nine Partners Quaker boarding school in Dutchess County, New York and later became a teacher there. One of his students was Lucy Read, a neighbor from Adams. Lucy was the second child of Daniel and Susannah Richardson Read's seven children. The children were raised as Baptists. Both the Anthony and the Read families had lived in New England since the colonial period; Lucy Read's father fought in the Revolutionary War. According to the biography, "The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony," (L&WofSBA) by Ida Harper Husted:
Lucy Read, a tall, beautiful girl with glossy brown hair, large blue eyes and a fine complexion, was the belle of the neighborhood. . . . The Anthonys were Quakers, the Reads were Baptists, and a Quaker was not permitted to "marry out of meeting." Love laughed at rules and restrictions eighty years ago, just as it does to-day, and Daniel refused to let the Society come between him and the woman of his choice, but Lucy had many misgivings. Thanks to her father's ideas she had been brought up in a most liberal manner, allowed to attend parties, dance and wear pretty clothes to her heart's content, and it was a serious question with her whether she could give up all these and adopt the plain and severe habits of the Quakers. She had a marvelous voice, and, as she sang over her spinning-wheel, often wished that she might "go into a ten-acre lot with the bars down" so that she could let her voice out to its full capacity. The Quakers did not approve of singing, and that pleasure also would have to be relinquished. That the husband could give up his religious forms and accept those of the wife never had been imagined.
Love finally triumphed, and the young couple were married July 13, 1817. A few nights before the wedding Lucy went to a party and danced till four o'clock in the morning, while Friend Daniel sat bolt upright against the wall and counted the days which should usher in a new dispensation. A committee was sent at once to deal with Daniel, and Lucy always declared he told them he "was sorry he married her," but he would say, "No, my dear, I said I was sorry that in order to marry the woman I loved best, I had to violate a rule of the religious society I revered most." The matter was carefully talked over by the elders, and as he had said he was sorry he had to violate the rule, and as the family was one of much influence, and as he was their most highly educated and cultivated member, it was unanimously decided not to turn him out of meeting.
The manufacture of cotton becoming a prominent industry in New England at this time, the alert mind of Daniel Anthony conceived the idea of building a factory and using the waters of Tophet brook and of a rapid little stream which flowed through the Read farm. This was done, and proved a success from the beginning. . . . The factory hands for the most part came down from the Green mountain regions, glad of an opportunity never before enjoyed of earning wages and supporting themselves. They were girls of respectability, and, as was the custom then, boarded with the families of the mill-owners. Those of the Anthony factory were divided between the wife and Hannah Anthony Hoxie, a married sister. Lucy Anthony soon became acquainted with the stern realities of life. Her third baby was born when the first was three years and two months old. That summer she boarded eleven factory hands, who roomed in her house, and she did all the cooking, washing and ironing, with no help except that of a thirteen-year-old girl, who went to school and did "chores" night and morning. The cooking for the family of sixteen was done on the hearth in front of the fire-place and in a big brick oven at the side. . . . No matter how heavy the work, the woman of the household was expected to do it, and probably would have been the first to resent the idea that assistance was needed.Susan was their second oldest daughter; her siblings were Guelma Penn (named for the wife of Quaker William Penn), Hannah Lapham (named for her grandmother), Daniel Read (called D.R. by the family), Mary, Eliza (died at age 2), and Jacob Merritt (called Merritt).
Lucy Read Anthony was of a very timid and reticent disposition and painfully modest and shrinking. Before the birth of every child she was overwhelmed with embarrassment and humiliation, secluded herself from the outside world and would not speak of the expected little one even to her mother. That mother would assist her overburdened daughter by making the necessary garments, take them to her home and lay them carefully away in a drawer, but no word of acknowledgment ever passed between them.
Daniel Anthony built the family's first farmhouse outside of Adams; Mount Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts, was visible from the house. He built a small mill on a brook across the road from his house; the mill, with 20 looms, was staffed by young girls. Eleven of them boarded in the Anthony's house, and the others with his sister Hannah. Lucy Anthony was responsible for getting the meals for the family and boarders.
By 1826, Daniel Anthony had become so well-known for business management that he received an offer from Judge John McLean, of Battenville, Washington county, N.Y., who already had built a factory there, to go into cotton manufacturing on an extensive scale, the judge to furnish capital, Mr. Anthony executive ability. There was much opposition from the two older families to having their children go so far away (forty-four miles) and Lucy Anthony's heart was almost broken at the thought of leaving her aged father and mother, but Daniel was too good a financier to lose such an opportunity.In 1835, Susan began teaching in her father's school. She also collected petitions as part of an organized response to the gag rule prohibiting anti-slavery petitions in the United States House of Representatives. In 1837, Anthony was sent to Deborah Moulson's Female Seminary, a Quaker boarding school in Philadelphia.
In the fall she joined Guelma at boarding-school. . . . This was Susan's first long absence from home, and her letters and journals give a good idea of the thoughts and feelings of a girl at boarding-school in those days. She developed then the "letter-writing habit," which has clung to her through life. The letters of that time were laborious affairs, often consuming days in the writing, commencing even to children, "Respected Daughter," or "Son," and rarely exceeding one or two pages. They were written with a quill pen on foolscap paper, and almost wholly devoted to the weather and the sickness in the family. The amount of the latter would be appalling to modern households.. . . The Anthonys were exceptional letter-writers. It cost eighteen cents to send a letter, but Daniel Anthony was postmaster at Battenville, and his family had free use of the mails. If he had had postage to pay on all of homesick Susan's epistles it would have cost him a good round sum. The rules of the school required these to be written on the slate, submitted to the teacher and then carefully copied by the pupil, so it is not unusual to find that a letter was five or six days in preparation. For the same reason it is impossible to tell how much sincerity there is in the frequent references to the "dear teacher" and the "most excellent school."
. . . It is Susan's diary, however, which affords the most satisfactory glimpses of her true character, serious, devotional, deeply conscientious and strong in affection:
At the school, Susan met Lydia Mott, who would become one of her best friends.
Lucretia Coffin Mott, a well-known abolitionist. Susan first heard Lucretia Mott lecture while she was a a student at the Molson school.
In 1838, Susan was forced to end her formal studies because her father, like many others, was financially ruined during the Panic of 1837. The family's losses were so great that they were forced to sell everything in an auction. Their most personal belongings were saved at the last minute when Susan's uncle, Joshua Read, bid for them in order to restore them to the family.
The attic in this old house was finished off for a ball-room; it was said that great numbers of junk bottles had been laid under the floor to give especially nice tone to the fiddles. The young people of the village came to Daniel Anthony for permission to hold their dancing-school here but, with true Quaker spirit, he refused. Finally the committee came again and said: "You have taught us that we must not drink or go about places where liquor is sold. The only other dancing-hall in town is in a disreputable tavern, and if we can not come here we shall be obliged to go there." So Mr. Anthony called a council of his wife and elder daughters. The mother, remembering her own youth and also having a tender solicitude for the moral welfare of the young people, advised that they should have the hall. Mr. Anthony at last agreed on condition that his own daughters should not dance. So they came, and Susan, Guelma and Hannah sat against the wall and watched, longing to join them but never doing it. They danced every two weeks all winter; Mrs. Anthony gave them some simple refreshments, they went home early, there was no drinking and all was orderly and pleasant.
In September, 1839, Guelma married Aaron M. McLean, the grandson of John McLean, Daniel Anthony's business partner. Because Aaron was raised in the Presbyterian faith, the Quakers withdrew Guelma's membership for "marrying out of meeting."
Later, when visiting her irrepressible brother-in-law, Aaron McLean, she made some especially nice cream biscuits for supper, and he said, "I'd rather see a woman make such biscuits as these than solve the knottiest problem in algebra." "There is no reason why she should not be able to do both," was the reply. There are many references in the old letters to "Susan's tip-top dinners."Susan B. Anthony was 41 years old when the Civil War began.
From 1840 to 1845 Susan and Hannah taught almost continuously, receiving only $2 or $2.50 a week and board, but living with most rigid economy and giving the father all they could spare to help pay interest on the mortgage which rested on factory, mills and home. . . . It was in these early days of teaching that Miss Anthony saw with indignation the injustice practiced towards women. Repeatedly she would take a school which a male teacher had been obliged to give up because of inefficiency and, although she made a thorough success, would receive only one-fourth of his salary. It was the custom everywhere to pay men four times the wages of women for exactly the same amount of work, often not so well done.
On September 4, Hannah was married to Eugene Mosher, a merchant at Easton.
. . . On November 7, 1845, the parents and three children took the stage for Troy, and from there went by railroad to Palatine Bridge for a short visit to Joshua Read. The journey from here to Rochester was made by canal on a "line boat" instead of a "packet," because it was cheaper and because they wanted to be with their household goods. . .The family arrived in Rochester late in the
In 1845, the family moved to a farm on the outskirts of Rochester, New York, purchased with the inheritance of Anthony's mother. The Anthony farmstead soon became the Sunday afternoon gathering place for local activists, including Frederick Douglass, who moved there in 1847. Douglass started publishing his first abolitionist newspaper, The North Star, from the basement of the Memorial AME Zion Church in Rochester. The North Star′s motto was
"Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color –
God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren."
In 1846, her sister, Hannah married Eugene Mosher; Susan Anthony began work at the
Canajoharie Academy on May 11, 1846. According to L&WofSBA:
Susan's letter to her family on November 6, 1846, said:
In 1848, she became involved with the teacher’s union when she discovered that male teachers had a monthly salary of $10.00, while the female teachers earned $2.50 a month.
In Rochester, the Anthony family began to attend services at the First Unitarian Church, which was associated with social reform. A women's rights convention was held at that church in 1848, inspired by the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, which was held two weeks earlier. Anthony's parents and her sister Mary attended the Rochester convention and signed the Declaration of Sentiments that had been first adopted by the Seneca Falls Convention.
The Unitarian movement began almost simultaneously in Poland, Lithuania and Transylvania in the mid-16th century. In England the first Unitarian Church was established in 1774 in London. The first official acceptance of the Unitarian faith on the part of a congregation in America was in Boston. William Ellery Channing became the leader of the Unitarian movement.
Unlike her parents, who were committed to the abolition of slavery, her Canajoharie relatives, Joshua Read and his sons-in-law, were conservative Democrats. Like most landowners of his generation, Joshua Read--before the abolition of slavery in 1827—had owned people in slavery. Joshua Read kept his proslavery views. Susan wrote home,
Uncle is Old Hunker to the back bone,” and would not allow that the North had any more right to interfere with Southern Slavery, than the South had with the Northern system of manufacturing.
Susan Anthony began her career as a reformer when she gave her first lecture to the
Daughters of Temperance in Canajoharie. On March 2, 1849, she spoke to the Montgomery Union No. 29 of the Daughters of Temperance, and wrote to her mother,
One week ago this P.M. the Daughters of T. invited the ladies of the Village to meet with them at their room & listen an address from their P.S. [Presiding Sister] S. B. Anthony. The story was written on about 8 sheets, the import was the necessity for all to help, & do something more than merely say your cause is good we wish you well. Dan S. [Daniel Stafford Read, son of Joshua Read] came here the next day said that he had that day heard it remarked that Miss Anthony was the Smartest woman that is now or ever was in Canajoharie.
In 1849, at age 29, Anthony quit teaching and moved to the family farm in Rochester. She joined her family in attending services at the Unitarian church, and she remained with the Rochester Unitarians for the rest of her life.
Garrison, Pillsbury, Phillips, Channing and other great reformers visited at this home, and many a Sunday the big wagon would be sent to the city for Frederick Douglass and his family to come out and spend the day. Here were gathered many times the Posts, Hallowells, DeGarmos, Willises, Burtises, Kedzies, Fishes, Curtises, Stebbins, Asa Anthonys, all Quakers who had left the society on account of their anti-slavery principles and were leaders in the abolition and woman's rights movements. Every one of these Sunday meetings was equal to a convention. The leading events of the day were discussed in no uncertain tones. All were Garrisonians and believed in "immediate and unconditional emancipation.
William Lloyd Garrison was one of the most prominent American abolitionists; best known as the editor of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, which he founded in 1831 in Massachusetts. He was one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and promoted "immediate emancipation" of slaves. Garrison had begun writing in the 1820s for Benjamin Lundy's abolition newspaper, The Genius of Universal Emancipation.
Wendell Phillips was an abolitionist, advocate for Native Americans, and attorney. In 1835,
the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society announced that George Thompson, the British abolitionist, would be speaking' pro-slavery forces posted notices of a $100 reward for the citizen that would first lay violent hands on him. Thompson canceled at the last minute, and William Lloyd Garrison replaced him. A lynch mob formed, putting a noose around Garrison's neck. Several strong men intervened and took him to jail for safekeeping. Phillips was a witness to the attempted lynching. After being converted to the abolitionist cause by Garrison, Phillips stopped practicing law in order to dedicate himself to the movement. He joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and frequently made speeches at its meetings; he was known as "abolition's Golden Trumpet". Like many of his fellow abolitionists who honored the free produce movement, Phillips avoided cane sugar and wore no clothing made of cotton, since both were produced by the labor of Southern slaves. In the 1850s, Phillips would become a mentor and ally to Susan B. Anthony.
Parker Pillsbury also became Anthony's close colleague and friend. Pillsbury was an
American minister and advocate for abolition and women's rights. He earned a reputation for successfully dealing with hostile crowds through nonresistance tactics.
William Henry Channing was the nephew of William Ellery Channing, the prominent Unitarian minister. William Henry was born in Boston; his father died when he was an infant, and responsibility for his education was assumed by his uncle. The younger William graduated from Harvard College in 1829 and from Harvard Divinity School in 1833. He was ordained and installed in the Unitarian church in Cincinnati in 1835. He moved to Boston in 1847, and later to New York, where, both as preacher and editor, he became a leader in a movement of Christian socialism. Channing took active part in the early years of the woman’s rights movement. He signed the call for and attended the first National Woman’s Rights Convention, where he was appointed to the National Woman’s Rights Central Committee.
Isaac and Amy Post, were radical Hicksite Quaker from Rochester. Amy Kirby was born in 1802 Joseph and Mary Kirby, members of the Society of Friends. Isaac Post was born in 1798 in Long Island, New York to a Quaker family. Around 1821, Isaac married Amy's elder sister, Hannah Kirby. In 1827 Hannah fell ill, and Amy joined the Posts to help care for her sister’s two children. Hannah soon died, and Amy stayed on with Isaac to continue caring for the children. In 1828 Amy Kirby married Isaac Post, with whom she had four children. Isaac and Amy moved to Rochester in 1836, where Isaac went into business as a druggist.
Amy Post became an active member of the Gennesee Yearly Meeting of Hicksite Friends (GYM). In 1837, Amy Post went against the desires of the Society of Friends elders, who disapproved of slavery but distrusted radical abolitionism. In 1842, Amy and Isaac Post became two of the founders of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society (WNYASS). Among its members were evangelical Protestants and deists; as an officer of the society, it was Amy Post’s duty to organize fundraising fairs and group conventions. Despite the fact that the Society of Friends was a firmly anti-slavery group, the elders of the Rochester Monthly Meeting (RMM) accused Post of being too worldly in her efforts of trying to abolish slavery. Post disregarded the RMM’s investigations of her “worldly” efforts and continued to be a Quaker abolitionist.
Radical Quakers began to hold abolitionist meetings in the Post home, where prominent reform lecturers such as Garrison, Douglass, and Sojourner Truth visited and spoke. Douglass became a close personal friend of the Posts who helped establish him in Rochester. Douglass and the Posts collaborated in ferrying fugitive slaves to freedom in Canada, and their home served as a station on the Underground Railroad, holding as many as 20 escaped slaves at a time. Rochester was an important link on the Underground Railroad. Both black and white people managed the railroad, as well as people of different denominations.
Amy Post became good friends with Harriet Ann Jacobs, and encouraged her to write her book, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
Susan Anthony took over the operation of the family farm in Rochester so her father could devote more time to his insurance business. She also took part in temperance conventions and gatherings.
Abby Kelley Foster was an abolitionist and radical social reformer, a fundraiser, lecturer and committee organizer for the American Anti-Slavery Society. She worked closely with William Lloyd Garrison. Her views became progressively more radical as she worked with abolitionists such as Angelina Grimke; she became an “ultra”, advocating not only the abolition of slavery, but also full civil equality for blacks. Garrison's influence led her to adopt the position of “non-resistance", which went beyond opposing war to opposing all forms of government coercion. She married fellow abolitionist Stephen Symonds Foster in 1845; in 1847, she and her husband purchased a farm in the Tatnuck region of Worcester, Massachusetts and christened it "Liberty Farm". She gave birth to their only daughter in 1847. The farm served both as a stop on the Underground railroad and as a refuge for fellow reformers.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton's wrote her account of being introduced to Susan B. Anthony on a street in Seneca Falls:
I met my future friend and coadjutor for the first time. How well I remember the day! George Thompson and William Lloyd Garrison having announced an anti-slavery meeting in Seneca Falls, Miss Anthony came to attend it. These gentlemen were my guests. Walking home, after the adjournment, we met Mrs. Bloomer and Miss Anthony on the corner of the street, waiting to greet us. There she stood, with her good, earnest face and genial smile, dressed in gray delaine, hat and all the same color, relieved with pale blue ribbons, the perfection of neatness and sobriety. I liked her thoroughly, and why I did not at once invite her home with me to dinner, I do not know. She accuses me of that neglect, and has never forgiven me, as she wished to see and hear all she could of our noble friends. I suppose my mind was full of what I had heard, or my coming dinner, or the probable behavior of three mischievous boys who had been busily exploring the premises while I was at the meeting.
Lucy Stone was a prominent abolitionist and advocate of rights for women. In 1847, Stone had become the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree. Lucy Stone was born in 1818, on her family's farm in Massachusetts, the eighth of nine children. Another member of the Stone household was Sarah Barr, “Aunt Sally” to the children– her father's sister who had been abandoned by her husband and left dependent upon her brother. Stone recalled that “There was only one will in our family, and that was my father’s.” Her mother, Hannah, earned a modest income through selling eggs and cheese but had no control over that money. Believing she had a right to her own earnings, Hannah sometimes stole coins from her husband's purse or secretly sold a cheese. As a child, Lucy resented instances of what she saw as her father’s unfair management of the family’s money. but she later came to realize that custom was to blame. From the examples of her mother, Aunt Sally, and a neighbor neglected by her husband and left destitute, Stone early learned that women were at the mercy of their husbands’ good will. Resolving to “call no man my master,” she determined to keep control over her own life by never marrying, obtaining the highest education she could, and earning her own living.
At age sixteen, Stone began teaching in district schools, as her brothers and sister Rhoda also did. Her beginning pay of $1.00 a day was much lower than that of male teachers, and when she substituted for her brother Bowman one winter, she received less pay than he received. When she protested to the school committee that she had taught all the subjects Bowman had, it replied that they could give her “only a woman’s pay.”
In 1843, a deacon of her church was recommended for expulsion because of antislavery activities, including giving countenance to Abby Kelley’s anti-church views by driving her to lectures and entertaining her at his home. When the first vote was taken, Stone raised her hand in his defense. The minister discounted her vote, saying that, though she was a member of the church, she was not a voting member. Like Kelly, she stubbornly raised her hand for each of the remaining five votes.Stone gave her first public speeches on women's rights in the fall of 1847, first at her brother Bowman’s church. Stone became a lecturing agent for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1848, persuaded by Abby Kelley Foster. Stone proved to be an effective speaker. She was described as “a little meek-looking Quakerish body, with the sweetest, modest manners and yet as unshrinking and self-possessed as a loaded canon.” In 1849, Stone was invited to lecture for the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, and Lucretia Mott took advantage of her presence to hold Pennsylvania’s first women’s rights meeting, on May 4, 1849. Stone conducted Massachusetts’ first petition campaigns for the right of women to vote and hold public office, and William Lloyd Garrison published them in the Liberator for readers to copy and circulate. With the support of Garrison and other abolitionists, Stone arranged the May 30, 1850, meeting at Boston’s Melodeon Hall that called the first National Woman’s Rights Convention. In May 1851, while in Boston attending the New England Anti-Slavery Society’s annual meeting, Stone went to the exhibit of Hiram’s Powers’s statue of The Greek Slave. She was so moved by the sculpture that when she addressed the meeting that evening, she poured out her heart about the statue being emblematic of all enchained womanhood. The society’s general agent, Samuel May, Jr., reproached her for speaking on women’s rights at an antislavery meeting; she replied: “I was a woman before I was an abolitionist. I must speak for women.” Three months later Stone notified May that she intended to lecture on women’s rights full-time and would not be available for antislavery work. Stone launched her career as an independent women’s rights lecturer on October 1, 1851. When May continued to press antislavery work upon her, she agreed to lecture for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society on Sundays. Arranging women’s rights lectures around these engagements, she used pay for her antislavery work to defray expenses of her independent lecturing until she felt confident enough to charge admission.
Susan Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were instrumental in founding the short-lived Women's New York State Temperance Society (1852–1853). During her presidency of the organization, Stanton scandalized many supporters by suggesting that drunkenness be made sufficient cause for divorce.
Stanton had four young sons when she met Susan Anthony, and in the following ten years would give birth to two daughters and another son. Stanton wrote in her memoirs:
It is often said, by those who know Miss Anthony best, that she has been my good angel, always pushing and goading me to work, and that but for her pertinacity I should never have accomplished the little I have. On the other hand it has been said that I forged the thunderbolts and she fired them. Perhaps all this is, in a measure, true.
Stanton wrote about the bloomer costume:
Mrs. Amelia Bloomer was assistant postmistress; an editor of a reform paper
. . . The patience of most of us was exhausted in about two years; but our leader, Mrs.
In 1852, Anthony was elected as a delegate to the state temperance convention, but the chairman stopped her when she tried to speak, saying that women delegates were there only to listen and learn. Anthony and some of the other women immediately walked out and announced a meeting of their own, which created a committee to organize a women's state convention. Largely organized by Anthony, the convention of 500 women met in Rochester in April and created the Women's State Temperance Society, with Stanton as president and Anthony as state agent. Anthony and her co-workers collected 28,000 signatures on a petition for a law to prohibit the sale of alcohol in New York State. She organized a hearing on that law before the New York legislature, the first that had been initiated in that state by a group of women. At the organization's convention the following year, however, conservative members attacked Stanton's advocacy of the right of a wife of an alcoholic to obtain a divorce. When Stanton was voted out as president, she and Anthony resigned from the organization.
In 1852, Anthony attended her first National Women's Rights Convention, which was held in Syracuse, New York. Anthony participated in every subsequent annual National Women's Rights Convention, and served as convention president in 1858.
Her good friend, Lydia Mott, lived in Albany with her sister, Abigail, where they taught school, ran a men's clothing store and a boarding house for New York state legislators. Their home was also an Underground Railroad station. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote that Lydia Mott was "one of the quiet workers who kept all things pertaining to the woman's rights reform in motion at the capital."
Samuel Joseph May was a radical reformer who championed multiple reform movements including abolition and education. He was born in 1797 in an upper class Boston area, the son of Colonel Joseph May, a merchant, and Dorothy Sewell, who was descended from or connected to many of the leading families of colonial Massachusetts, including the Quincys and the Hancocks. His sister was Abby May Alcott, mother of novelist Louisa May Alcott. May graduated from Harvard Divinity School and became a Unitarian minister. In 1830, May met and developed a strong friendship with William Lloyd Garrison. Although his abolitionist views alienated his family, friends, and other clergymen, he helped Garrison found the New England Anti-Slavery Society, the American Anti-Slavery Society, and the New England Non-Resistance Society. In addition to speaking and writing about abolition, May was an advocate of women’s rights: he wrote The Rights and Condition of Women in 1846 in favor of giving women the right to vote and allowing them equality in all aspects of life. May’s work with the women’s movement prompted him to move towards socialist economic views including redistribution of the nation’s wealth, overhaul of the legal system, and a “soak-the-rich” income tax.
The Maine law, passed in 1851 in the state of Main, was one of the first statutory implementations of the temperance movement in the United States. The passage of the law, which prohibited the sale of all alcoholic beverages except for "medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes," quickly spread elsewhere, and by 1855 twelve states had joined Maine in total prohibition. The act was unpopular with many working class people and immigrants. Opposition to the law turned violent in Portland, Maine on June 2, 1855. The riot was a contributing factor to the law being repealed in 1856. The New York state legislature passed a prohibitory liquor law in 1854, only to be vetoed by Governor Seymour. The same year, Governor Seymour was replaced by the prohibition candidate Myron H. Clark, and early the next year, the legislature re-passed the "Maine Law," though it had spotty enforcement.
On September 8, 1852, she went to her first Woman's Rights Convention,which was held at Syracuse. . . . At the preliminary meeting, held the night before, she was made a member of the nominating committee with Paulina Wright Davis, of Providence, R.I., chairman. Mrs. Davis had come with the determination of putting in as president her dear friend Elizabeth Oakes Smith, a fashionable literary woman of Boston. Both attended the meeting and the convention in short-sleeved, low-necked white dresses, one with a pink, the other with a blue embroidered wool delaine sack with wide, flowing sleeves, which left both neck and arms exposed. At the committee meeting next morning, Quaker James Mott nominated Mrs. Smith for president, but Quaker Susan B. Anthony spoke out boldly and said that nobody who dressed as she did could represent the earnest, solid, hard-working women of the country for whom they were making the demand for equal rights. Mr. Mott said they must not expect all women to dress as plainly as the Friends; but she held her ground, and as all the committee agreed with her, though no one else had had the courage to speak, Mrs. Smith's name was voted down. . . . Lucretia Mott was made president, and the Syracuse Standard said: "It was a singular spectacle to see this Quaker matron presiding over a convention with an ease, grace and dignity that might be envied by the most experienced legislator in the country." Susan B. Anthony and Martha C. Wright were the secretaries.
The queen of the platform at this time was Ernestine L. Rose, a Jewess who had fled from Poland to escape religious persecution. She was beautiful and cultured, of liberal views and great oratorical powers. Her lectures on "The Science of Government" had attracted wide attention. Naturally, she took a prominent part in the early woman's rights meetings.
Ernestine Rose was an abolitionist and feminist who was also known as an atheist. She was
born in 1810 as Ernestine Louise Polowsky, the daughter of a Jewish family in Trybunalski, Poland. Her father was a wealthy rabbi and her mother was the daughter of a wealthy businessman. At the age of five, Rose began to "question the justice of a God who would exact such hardships" as the frequent fasts that her father performed. As she grew older, she began to question her father more and more on religious matters, receiving only, "A young girl does not want to understand the object of her creed, but to accept and believe it." in response. By the age of fourteen, she had completely rejected the idea of female inferiority and the religious texts that supported that idea.
When she was sixteen her mother died, and her father, betrothed her to a young Jew who was a friend of his. Rose, not wanting to enter a marriage with a man she neither chose nor loved, confronted him, professing her lack of affection towards him and begging for release. Since Rose was from a rich family, and the fiance rejected her plea. Rose went to the secular civil court, where she pleaded her case herself" the courts ruled in her favor, not only freeing her from her betrothal, but ruling that she could retain the full inheritance she received from her mother. She returned home to discover that in her absence her father had remarried, to a sixteen-year-old girl. Tension grew in the family that developed eventually forced her to leave home at the age of seventeen.
In 1836 the Roses emigrated to the United States, where they later became naturalized citizens. The Roses opened a small "Fancy and Perfumery" store in their home in New York City, where Rose sold perfumed toilet water and William ran a silversmith shop. Rose soon began to give lectures, and traveled to speak on the abolition of slavery, religious tolerance, public education and equality for women. When she was in the South to speak against slavery, one slaveholder told her he would have "tarred and feathered her if she had been a man". In 1855, when she delivered an anti-slavery lecture in Bangor, Maine, a local newspaper called her "a female Atheist... a thousand times below a prostitute."
Rose was elected president of the National Women's Rights Convention in October, 1854, in spite of objections that she was an atheist. Her election was heavily supported by Susan B. Anthony, who declared that, "every religion – or none – should have an equal right on the platform." Anthony considered her, with Mary Wollstonecraft and Frances Wright, to have pioneered the cause of woman suffrage.
Mary Post Hallowell was a niece/stepdaughter of Amy Kirby Post; she became an anti-slavery activist as a young woman. In 1842, she joined the newly-formed Western New York Anti-Slavery Society (WNYASS), a group which her parents had helped to found. After she married, her home, like that of her parents, provided a refuge for fugitive slaves as part the Underground Railroad.
Mary Hallowell left the Society of Friends in the mid-1840s rather than give up her reform activities, as did her parents and many other Rochester Quakers. Hallowell and her husband were among the many former Rochester-area Quaker anti-slavery activists who met almost every Sunday at the Anthony farm during the late 1840s and early 1850s, where they socialized and discussed their views. In addition to being close friends with Susan B. Anthony, she also worked closely with nationally-known abolitionists like Wendell Phillips and Parker Pillsbury. Like many women of her time, Hallowell was also an advocate of temperance. Hallowell also assisted in the organization of the United Charities of Rochester. She was present at the first women’s rights Convention held in Seneca Falls in July of 1848 and a signer of the Declaration of Sentiments.
In 1853, Anthony attended the World's Temperance Convention in New York City, which bogged down for three chaotic days in a dispute about whether women would be allowed to speak there. Years later, Anthony observed,
No advanced step taken by women has been so bitterly contested as that of speaking in public. For nothing which they have attempted, not even to secure the suffrage, have they been so abused, condemned and antagonized.
That same year, Anthony worked with William Henry Channing, her Unitarian minister, to organize a convention in Rochester to launch a state campaign for improved property rights for married women. She spoke at meetings, collected signatures for petitions, and lobbied the state legislature.
In 1854, Anthony's brother, D.R., traveled to Kansas with the New England Emigrant Aid Company. D.R. became a follower of John Brown, and would make Leavenworth, Kansas his permanent home.
John Brown was an abolitionist who believed armed insurrection was the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States. In the 1850s, he had been a regular visitor in Rochester at the home of Frederick Douglass. Brown first gained attention when he led small groups of volunteers during the "Bleeding Kansas" crisis. Brown believed that peaceful resistance was ineffective. Dissatisfied with the pacifism encouraged by the organized abolitionist movement, he said, "These men are all talk. What we need is action—action!" During the Kansas campaign, he and his supporters killed five pro-slavery southerners in what became known as the Pottawatomie Massacre.
Miss Anthony decided to abandon the Bloomer costume. The subject had been occupying her sleeping and waking hours for some time, and it was only after a long and agonizing struggle that she persuaded herself to take the step.
Anthony wrote a letter to Garrison that he published in the Liberator in April:
Dear Mr. Garrison
From the land of slavery I write. There is no mistaking the fact. The saddening, hateful evidences are on every side. Pro-slavery people, both of the North and the South, have often said to me, "Just go South, and see slavery as it really is, and you will cease to speak of it as you now do."
How strangely blind must that person be, who hates slavery less, by coming in closer contact with its degrading influences! . . . I have been travelling in company with Ernestine Rose the past three weeks, during which time Mrs. Rose has lectured on Woman's Rights, in Washington, Alexandria, and Baltimore. . . . But few people here seem to be in the least interested in any subject of reform. The only thing that in any way alarms them is the fear that some word shall be uttered which shall endanger the "pet institution." . . .All are afraid of us; if we don't say any thing, our very presence seems to arouse their suspicions.
May the day soon come when justice and equality shall be fully established between all mankind, without distinction of sex or color!
Returning from the South, Anthony and Rose visited the Motts in Philadelphia. Sarah Grimke was also visiting the Motts at the time, and one morning Susan and Sarah went out to look for the location of the tree where William Penn had signed a treaty with the Indians. In the year 1683, under an elm tree immortalized in a painting by Benjamin West, William Penn entered into a treaty of peace with a chief of the Lenape Turtle Clan named Tamanend. Penn, unarmed in accord with Quaker custom, proclaimed that
We meet on the broad pathway of good faith and good-will; no advantage shall be taken on either side, but all shall be openness and love. We are the same as if one man’s body was to be divided into two parts; we are of one flesh and one blood.
This peace between the Lenape Turtle Clan and Penn's successors would endure almost a century, until 1782. The famous elm tree under which the treaty was conducted fell during a storm in 1810; afterwards, a monument was erected on the site to commemorate the treaty. The small obelisk remained in the northwest corner of a lumber yard that sat on the site, until actions were taken in 1893 to acquire the land and build the park that exists today.
Lucretia Mott attended the Fifth Women's Rights Convention at Sansom Street Hall in Philadelphia in October 1854. Ernestine Rose was chosen president in spite of objections to her atheism. Anthony supported her, saying "every religion – or none – should have an equal right on the platform". Rose spoke out to the gathering, saying "Our claims are based on that great and immutable truth, the rights of all humanity." Henry Grew took the speaker's platform to condemn women who demanded equal rights. He described examples from the Bible which assigned to women a subordinate role. Lucretia Mott debated him, saying that he was selectively using the Bible to put upon women a sense of order that originated in man's mind. She said
Anthony rote to Matilda Joslyn Gage that “I know slavery is the all-absorbing question of the
day, still we must push forward this great central question, which underlies all others.” Matilda Gage was an abolitionist, freethinker and suffragist, whose childhood home was a station of the Underground Railroad. In 1845, she married Henry Gage, a businessman. She faced prison for her actions under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which criminalized assistance to escaped slaves. Gage became involved in the women's rights movement in 1852 when she attended the National Women's Rights Convention in Syracuse, where she met Susan Anthony.
Anthony took her lecture and petition campaign into almost every county in New York
during the winter of 1855, despite the difficulty of traveling in snowy terrain by horse and buggy.
Martha Coffin was born in Boston in 1806, the youngest child of the Quakers Anna Folger and Thomas Coffin. Her older sister was Lucretia Coffin Mott. Martha married Captain Peter Pelham of Kentucky in 1824 and moved with him to a frontier fort at Tampa Bay, Florida. Because he was non-Quaker, she was written out of meeting. They had a daughter; Peter died in July 1826, leaving Martha a nineteen-year-old widow with an infant child. She moved to upstate New York to teach painting and writing at a school for girls. She later married a young law student named David Wright and had six more children.
In July 1848, Lucretia Mott visited Martha's home in Auburn, New York. During that visit, Martha and Lucretia met with two Quaker women and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. They decided to hold a convention in nearby Seneca Falls, New York to discuss rights for women. After the first convention, Martha Wright participated in a number of state conventions and at the annual national conventions, often serving as President. She was active in the abolition movement, and her home was part of the Underground Railroad, where she harbored fugitive slaves. Martha Wright became a close friend and supporter of Harriet Tubman. Martha also became one of Susan Anthony's closest friends.
Antoinette Brown was the first woman to be ordained as a mainstream protestant minister in the United States. Antoinette taught school and saved enough money to cover the cost of her tuition at Oberlin College in Ohio. In 1847, after graduating with her bachelor's degree, she lobbied the college for admission to the college’s theological course with its emphasis on Congregationalist ministry. The administration, opposed to the idea of a woman engaging in any kind of formal theological learning and training, eventually capitulated but with a specific set of pre-conditions: Antoinette could enroll in the courses, but she was not to receive formal recognition.
Antoinette was asked to speak in Ohio and New York about anti-slavery and on women's rights.Without a preaching license following graduation, Brown decided to pause her ministerial ambitions to write for Frederick Douglass' abolitionist paper, The North Star.She spoke in 1850 at the first national women's rights convention, giving a speech that served as the beginning of a speaking tour in which she would address issues such as abolition, temperance, and women's rights. Brown spoke at many of the subsequent annual National Women's Rights Conventions. Brown believed that it was best to remain single, because single women experienced greater levels of independence than married women. After meeting Samuel Blackwell, (the brother of Henry Blackwell, Lucy Stone's husband) her opinions began to change in favor of marriage. They married on January 24, 1856, and had seven children.
Henry Blackwell was an advocate for social and economic reform, who became one of the founders of the Republican Party. Henry had been born in England; the family moved to Cincinnati in 1838, where Blackwell’s father intended to establish another refinery. However, within months of their arrival, he died, leaving the family destitute. Blackwell’s mother, aunt, and three elder sisters opened a school in their home, while thirteen-year-old Henry and his brother Sam took clerking jobs.Around 1845 he became a partner in a flour mill business; within a year he had made enough profit to purchase a small brick house in Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills section, which remained the Blackwell family home until they moved east in 1856.
Blackwell met Lucy Stone in Cincinnati when she visited in 1850. In 1853 on a trip to Boston, he became reacquainted with her . Although Stone accepted him as a friend, she rejected him as a suitor because she believed marriage would require her to surrender control and prevent her from pursuing her chosen work. Blackwell determined to convince Stone that marriage to him would require sacrifice of neither individuality nor career. He maintained that a marriage based on equality would enable each of them to accomplish more than they could alone. He wanted to work for the good of humanity, but believed he must wait until he had attained the freedom to command his own time and action-- "pecuniary independence," which he expected to achieve in three years. Through their correspondence over the summer, Blackwell and Stone discussed the nature and faults of the marriage institution and the benefits of a true, ideal marriage. Blackwell offered to arrange a lecture tour for her in the mid-western states of Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky. She accepted, and he wrote to business acquaintances to engage halls and place newspaper notice while personally printing and mailing broadsides for posting. From mid-October 1853 through the first week of January 1854, Stone lectured on women’s rights in more than ten cities in five states, including Cincinnati, Louisville, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Chicago. Newspaper reports described her enthusiastic reception by the largest audiences ever assembled in some of the cities, as well as the influence she was having on those who heard her. During a rendezvous before she returned east, Stone expressed not only her deep gratitude to Blackwell for making her success possible, but also a genuine affection. As the long-distance courtship continued, Blackwell shifted his arguments to how couples could shape their own marriages, regardless of society’s laws. After nine additional months of correspondence and brief meetings, Blackwell met Stone in Pittsburgh for a clandestine three-day rendezvous, after which Stone agreed to marry him.
When they married on May 1, 1855, they read a protest they had written for the ceremony performed by Reverend Thomas W. Higginson; the protest was published in abolitionist newspapers:
While we acknowledge our mutual affection by publicly assuming the relationship of husband and wife, yet in justice to ourselves and a great principle, we deem it a duty to declare that this act on our part implies no sanction of, nor promise of voluntary obedience to such of the present laws of marriage, as refuse to recognize the wife as an independent, rational being, while they confer upon the husband an injurious and unnatural superiority, investing him with legal powers which no honorable man would exercise, and which no man should possess. We protest especially against the laws which give to the husband:
We believe that personal independence and equal human rights can never be forfeited, except for crime; that marriage should be an equal and permanent partnership, and so recognized by law; that until it is so recognized, married partners should provide against the radical injustice of present laws, by every means in their power.Lucy Stone kept her own name rather than adding her husband's.
Charles Lenox Remond was an African American abolitionist and activist based in Massachusetts. He lectured against slavery across the Northeast, and in the British Isles on an 1840 tour with William Lloyd Garrison. Remond was born in Salem, Massachusetts to John Remond, a free man of color who was a hairdresser, and Nancy Lenox, daughter of a prominent Boston caterer. In 1830, at the first national Colored Convention in Philadelphia, Remond and Frederick Douglass proposed a resolution that blacks should leave "en masse" any church "that discriminated against them in seating or at the communion table." Their resolution was adopted. Remond and his sister Sarah Parker Remond were anti-slavery lecturers; Anthony was the agent who made the arrangements for their speeches, lodging and travel. He wrote her from Cincinnati:
Cincinnati, Ohio, November 26, 1857 .
Now in the first place I want to hope you are, together with your entire family in the enjoyment of good health and a large share of worldly prosperity. Sarah is well and I find myself improved since our seperation in Cleveland in regard to meetings since that time, with the exception of a few places. I cannot say much, for the weather & travelling has every way unpleasant and uncomfortable, and getting money or subscribers seems out of the question.
We seperated with our friend Mr. Foss on tuesday week past and started for this City by the way of Columbus, and where at we held or tried to hold three meetings but all of which proved miserable failures, the entire citizens both colored & white gave us a rascally letting alone. And this you know uses me up a little quicker than any other demonstration, and if I could have got hold of about five hundred of the twice dead citizens on the last evening of our stay, I think I would have piled the epithets upon them pretty thick for I do consider it a little the most heartless place I ever visited.
In this City we have held three meetings very well attended by the colored people and tomorrow (Friday) evening we hold our fourth and last, and on Saturday morning we start for Carrol and Harrison Counties whereat we remain six or eight days, and then go into Pennsylvania on our way home, and shall probably reach home about the 20th of next month, and after being at home a few weeks shall be ready I hope to start again for another campaine.
. . . At any rate please drop me a line intimating your plans for the winter. Its possible I am expected to spend the winter in Vermont but if what I hear is true of the climate of that state and among the mountains especially, I should not expose my health by going there, and I prefer Western N. York any how, at any rate if the party of Yourself— Aaron, Sarah and my self can be made I am in for it.
So you can depend upon me if you wish as one who is willing to be a soldier under your generalship. now that ain't flattery greater than you can bear is it? for if it impresses you that way, I have not designed it.
. . . When you see Isaac & Amy please give my love to them, and tell them I hope they will not allow Rochester to slumber or sleep through the winter but have the agitators in again who will torment them within an inch of their lives. Remember me also, very kindly to your parents and Sister Mary and in the meantime, I remain Very Truly, Yr friendAnthony agreed to become the New York State agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society with the understanding that she would also continue her advocacy of women's rights. Anthony organized anti-slavery meetings throughout the state under banners that read "No compromise with slaveholders. Immediate and Unconditional Emancipation."
WENDTE'S STATION, January 14, 12-1/2 o'clock P. M. We stopped at a little tavern where the landlady was not yet twenty and had a baby fifteen months old. Her supper dishes were not washed and her baby was crying, but she was equal to the occasion. She rocked the little thing to sleep, washed the dishes and got our supper; beautiful white bread, butter, cheese, pickles, apple and mince pie, and excellent peach preserves. She gave us her warm bedroom to sleep in, and on a row of pegs hung the loveliest embroidered petticoats and baby clothes, all the work of that young woman's fingers, while on a rack was her ironing perfectly done, wrought undersleeves, baby dresses, embroidered underwear, etc. She prepared a 6 o'clock breakfast for us, fried pork, mashed potatoes, mince pie, and for me, at my especial request, a plate of delicious baked sweet apples and a pitcher of rich milk.
In 1856, Susan Anthony's youngest brother, Merritt, followed John Brown to Osawatomie in the Kansas Territory to defend settlers against "border ruffians" He fought there and was injured in the raid. The Battle of Osawatomie took place on August 30, 1856 when hundreds of "Border Ruffians" led by John W. Reid attacked the town of Osawatomie. Reid was intent on destroying the free state settlement and then moving on Topeka and Lawrence to do more of the same. John Brown learned of the raiders when they shot his son Frederick; with 40 or so men, Brown tried to defend the town against the pro-slavery partisans, causing heavy casualties before being forced to withdraw. The town of Osawatomie was then looted and burned.
Like his brother, D.R., Merritt would settle permanently in Kansas. Their youngest sister, Mary, a teacher, returned to Rochester and began teaching in the city's public schools.
Susan Anthony's favorite book was Aurora Leigh, a novel/poem published by Elizabeth
Barrett Browning in 1856. Anthony would carry Aurora Leigh with her as she travelled through America campaigning for women's rights; she interpreted it as a vision of a new woman. Near the end of her life, Anthony presented her treasured copy to the Library of Congress in 1902 and wrote on the flyleaf:
This book was carried in my satchel for years and read & re-read. ... With the hope that Women may more & more be like ‘Aurora Leigh’.
She underlined the following passage:
Beloved, let us love so well,
Our work shall still be better for our love,
And still our love be sweeter for our work
And both commended, for the sake of each
By all true workers and true lovers born.
In her speech, "Make the Slaves Case our Own," she said
She joined the Congregational Friends, an organization that was created by Quakers in western New York after the 1848 split among Quakers there. This group soon ceased to operate as a religious body, however, and changed its name to the Friends of Human Progress, organizing annual meetings in support of social reform that welcomed everyone, including "Christians, Jews, Mahammedans, and Pagans". Anthony served as secretary of this group in 1857.
Her speeches from that time were made from notes or headings and among those used during the winter of 1857 are the following:
"Our mission is to deepen sympathy and convert it into right action; to show that the men and women of the North are slave-holders, those of the South slave-owners.
"The guilt rests on the North equally with the South, therefore our work is to rouse the sleeping consciences of the North.... No one is ignorant now. . . . We ask you to feel as if you, yourselves, were the slaves. . . .
"We preach revolution; the politicians reform. We say disobey every unjust law; the politician says obey them, and meanwhile labor constitutionally for repeal."
Anthony summarized her image of the "new true woman" in her speech:
The true woman will not be exponent of another, or allow another to be such for her. She will be her own individual self - do her own individual work - stand or fall by her own individual wisdom and strength. . . .
The old idea that man was made for himself and woman for him-that he is the oak, she the vine, he the head, she the heart, he the great conservator of wisdom principle, she of love - will be reverently laid aside with other long-since-exploded philosophies of the ignorant past.
She will proclaim . . that women equally with man was made for her own individual happiness, to develop every power of her three-fold nature, to use, worthily, every talent given her by God, in the great work of life, to the best advantage of herself and the race.L&WofSBA:
Speaking at the Ninth National Women’s Rights Convention on May 12, 1859, Anthony asked "Where, under our Declaration of Independence, does the Saxon man get his power to deprive all women and Negroes of their inalienable rights?"
According to the notes for the convention,
ERNESTINE; L. ROSE being introduced, said:
. . . You have been told, and much more might be said on the subject, that already the Woman's Rights platform has upon it lawyers, ministers, and statesmen-men who are among the highest in the nation. I need not mention Win. Lloyd Garrison, or Wendell Phillips; but there are others, those even who are afraid of the name of reformer who have stood upon our platform. Brady! Who would ever have expected it? Chapin! Beecher! Think of it for a moment! A minister advocating the rights of woman, even her right at the ballot-box ! What has done it? Our agitation has purified the atmosphere, and enabled them to see the injustice that is done to woman.L&WofSBA:
In a letter to Lucy Stone, Anthony said,
The Men, even the best of them, seem to think the Women's Rights question should be waived for the present. So let us do our own work, and in our own way.In 1860, when Anthony assisted a woman who had fled an abusive husband, Garrison insisted that the woman give up the child she had brought with her, pointing out that the law gave husbands complete control of children. Anthony reminded Garrison that he helped slaves escape to Canada in violation of the law and said, "Well, the law which gives the father ownership of the children is just as wicked and I'll break it just as quickly."
The abuse began in 1858, according to Phoebe's written accounts. When she caught him with a mistress at their Beacon Hill home and confronted him about his extramarital affairs, he threw her down the stairs. He later had her committed to the McLean Asylum for the Insane in Belmont, Massachusetts. She protested that she was not crazy, but it was her word against a powerful politician and a medical doctor. She was held in the asylum for nearly 18 months, and was not allowed any visits from family or friends. She eventually managed to prove her sanity and was released to the care of her brother, Ira Harris, in Albany. Ira Harris was a judge, state Assemblyman, U.S. senator, and president of Union College.
Phelps hired security agents to track down and seize the children, and return them to his Boston home. Anthony helped Phoebe settle in Philadelphia, where she supported herself with sewing jobs and writing projects. She was the author of several books.
Phoebe died in 1889, a successful children's book author who had happily reunited with her grown daughters.
When Phelps died in 1902 in Boston, his obituary mentioned his wife's name and nothing else about her. He was never charged with domestic violence.
The world waits
Beloved, let us love so well,
Our work shall still be better for our love,
And still our love be sweeter for our work
And both commended, for the sake of each
By all true workers and true lovers born
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh