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social sciences

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Anthony, Susan B. (1820-1906)  
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Anthony was less enthusiastic about the Fourteenth Amendment, which would grant full constitutional right to due process to African-Americans--but only to African-American men. Stanton shared her indignation that women were not included in the legislation, asking, "Do you believe the African race is composed entirely of males?"

Similarly, the Fifteenth Amendment mentioned only "race, color, or previous condition of servitude" as grounds that could not be used to deny a citizen the right to vote. Anthony was bitterly disappointed that neither of the amendments, adopted in 1868 and 1870, respectively, addressed the situation of women.

Sponsor Message.

Women's Suffrage

The cause of women's suffrage was by then at the center of Anthony's life. Along with Stanton and other feminists she formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) in 1869. This organization merged in 1890 with its former rival, the American Woman Suffrage Association. Anthony, a previous president of the NWSA, became president of the combined National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1892 and served until her eightieth year.

Anthony soon began traveling extensively for the cause. Her journeys often took her west, where there was a strong effort to include voting rights for women in the constitutions of new states, as well as to promote a federal amendment.

"Unsexed" Champion of Women

Anthony's career as an activist and public speaker made her, in Barry's words, "one of the most loved and hated women in the country." Her opponents often described her as "unsexed," an unnatural creature that did not function as a "true woman," one who devoted her life to a husband.

Anthony's devotion was to women, and her compassion extended to women whom much of society scorned. She defended Hester Vaughan, an English-born servant girl who had become pregnant as a result of rape. When Vaughan gave birth alone, her child died, and she was charged with infanticide and sentenced to death. Anthony and Stanton managed to secure her a pardon and raise enough money for her to return to her homeland.

Anthony also spoke out against a case involving actress Abby Sage. Although her abusive ex-husband had shot her new fiancé and been acquitted by reason of insanity, he was still given custody of their son.

The work for suffrage made Anthony a temporary ally of Victoria Woodhull, an activist whose agenda included not only the vote for women but also the abolition of marriage in favor of "free love." Woodhull had ambitions of running for president and made a heavy-handed attempt to take over the NWSA in order to do so, at which point Anthony concluded their association.

Civil Disobedience

While Anthony never ran for public office, she did vote. Along with some four dozen other women she registered in Rochester, New York on November 4, 1872, and the next day she cast her ballot.

Anthony was subsequently arrested but refused to post bail, claiming that the government did not have the right to jail her since she had committed no crime. Her lawyer, Henry Selden, put up the bail money without her knowledge because he did not want to see "a lady [he] respected" imprisoned. His misplaced gallantry deprived her of the chance to have her case heard in the Supreme Court by writ of habeas corpus.

At her trial in a lower court--prior to which she had voted again in a local election--the judge ordered a directed verdict of guilty, and Anthony was assessed a fine of one hundred dollars, which she refused to pay.

Friendship with Anna Dickinson

The defiant act of voting was an unusual tactic for Anthony, whose more typical methods were writing, lecturing, and meeting with other feminist leaders to promote "the cause." Among the women that she met in the course of her work was Anna Dickinson, another popular speaker.

Lillian Faderman reports that the articulate and attractive Dickinson often received "billets-doux" from women. The correspondence between her and Anthony was of a distinctly romantic turn. In an 1862 letter Dickinson wrote to Anthony, "I want to see you very much indeed, to hold your hand in mine, to hear your voice, in a word, I want you." For her part Anthony--the woman whose detractors called "grim" and "unsexed"--responded with letters in which she addressed Dickinson as "My Dear Chicky Dicky Darlint" and invited her to share her bed, "big enough and good enough to take you in."

Anthony encouraged friendship of fellow suffragists, some of whom referred to her as Aunt Susan in affectionate recognition of her leadership role in the movement. As Faderman points out, however, the "emotional, playful, and erotic" correspondence between Anthony and Dickinson clearly indicates an intimate relationship.

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