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Arabella Mansfield - Susan B. Anthony

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Susan Brownell Anthony (1820–1906) was not only a famous activist for women's suffrage (voting rights) but a famous criminal defendant in her pursuit of the cause. She was an educator in upstate New York when she became convinced of the need to work for women's rights full time. She resigned from her job and began volunteering in temperance societies, to help women and children who suffered abuses from alcoholic husbands.

Anthony also devoted her time to the antislavery movement from the early 1850s until the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861. She served as an agent for the American Antislavery Society. In 1851 Susan met Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902), a national leader in social reform for women. She joined forces with Stanton and others to promote women's rights, which included the right to vote.

From 1868 to 1870 Anthony published the weekly magazine, The Revolution. The publication centered on the Women's Suffrage Association agenda and featured editorials written by Stanton. The magazine called for women's rights, including equal pay and the right to vote. Campaigns for women having a voice in the courtroom and at the ballot box were occurring simultaneously across the nation. When Arabella Mansfield became the first American woman admitted to the bar, The Revolution celebrated her achievement in print and praised her contribution to the women's movement.

In 1869 the women's rights movement split into two factions with Anthony and Stanton heading the more radical National Woman's Suffrage Association (NWSA) out of New York. They argued that full citizenship for women included the right to vote guaranteed to women in the U.S. Constitution. Their objective was to achieve voting rights for women through an amendment to the Constitution.

The NWSA did not use membership to promote its cause but attracted recruits through publications and annual conventions. Anthony herself made personal appeals for signatures on petitions and traveled the lecture circuit giving interviews to local newspapers.

Susan B. Anthony. (The Library of Congress)


Some women had actually been successful in registering to vote but had been turned away by officials when they had tried to cast their ballots. On November 1, 1872, Susan B. Anthony and several others registered to vote in Rochester, New York. On November 5, Anthony showed up at the polls and the inspectors agreed to accept her vote. Two weeks later she was arrested at her home and charged with illegal voting.

Anthony was indicted on January 24, 1873, and entered a not guilty plea. While awaiting trial she engaged in a highly publicized lecture tour to draw attention to the issue. Her trial was held before Judge Ward Hunt on June 17 and 18 in Canandaigua, New York. Anthony was found guilty of violating the voting laws and fined one hundred dollars plus the cost of prosecution. Although tried and convicted, Anthony succeeded in her refusal to pay the fine.

Susan B. Anthony spent the rest of her life as a political reformer, working to guarantee women in the United States the right to vote. She wrote the Federal Woman Suffrage Amendment that was introduced in Congress in 1878. She took the fight to a larger audience when she organized the International Council of Women in 1888 and the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in 1904.

Anthony did not live to see the consummation of her efforts. She died at her home in Rochester, New York, on March 13, 1906. The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing American women the right to vote was not adopted until August 26, 1920.

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