Susan Brownell Anthony (1820 – 1906) was a prominent American civil rights leader who played a pivotal role in the 19th century women's rights movement to secure women's suffrage in the United States. She traveled the United States and Europe, and gave 75 to 100 speeches per year on women's rights for some 45 years.
Anthony was born and raised in West Grove, near Adams, Massachusetts. She was the oldest of seven children. One brother, publisher Daniel Read Anthony, would become active in the anti-slavery movement in Kansas, while a sister, Mary Stafford Anthony, became a teacher and a woman's rights activist. Anthony remained close to her sisters throughout her life.
Anthony was a precocious child, having learned to read and write at age three. Her father, a cotton manufacturer and abolitionist, was a stern but open-minded man who was born into the Quaker religion.
Anthony's mother, Lucy, was a progressive-minded woman. She attended the Rochester women’s rights convention held in August 1848, two weeks after the historic Seneca Falls Convention, and signed the Rochester convention’s Declaration of Sentiments. Together the Anthonys enforced self-discipline, principled convictions, and belief in one's own self-worth.
In 1826, when Susan was six years old, the Anthony family moved to Battenville, New York. Susan was sent to attend a local district school, where a teacher refused to teach her long division because of her gender. Upon learning of the weak education she was receiving, her father promptly had her placed in a group home school, where he taught Susan himself. Mary Perkins, another teacher there, conveyed a progressive image of womanhood to Anthony, further fostering her growing belief in women's equality.
In 1837, Anthony was sent to Deborah Moulson's Female Seminary, a Quaker boarding school in Philadelphia. She was not happy at Moulson's, but she did not have to stay there long. She was forced to end her formal studies because her family, like many others, was financially ruined during the Panic of 1837. Their losses were so great that they were forced to attempt to sell everything in an auction, even their most personal belongings, which were saved at the last minute when Susan's uncle, Joshua Read, stepped up and bid for them in order to restore them to the family.
In 1839, the family moved to Hardscrabble (later called Center Falls) New York, in the wake of the panic and economic depression that followed. That same year, Anthony left home to teach and to help pay off her father's debts. Anthony's first occupation inspired her to fight for wages equivalent to those of male teachers, since men earned roughly four times more than women for the same duties.
In 1849, at age 29, Anthony quit teaching and moved to the family farm in Rochester, New York. She began to take part in conventions and gatherings related to the temperance movement. In Rochester, she attended the local Unitarian Church and began to distance herself from the Quakers, in part because she had frequently witnessed instances of hypocritical behavior such as alcohol abuse amongst Quaker preachers. As she got older, Anthony continued to move further away from organized religion in general, and she was later chastised by various Christian religious groups for displaying irreligious tendencies.
In her youth, Anthony was very self-conscious of her looks and speaking abilities. She long resisted public speaking for fear she would not be sufficiently eloquent. Despite these insecurities, she became a renowned public presence, eventually helping to lead the women's movement.
In the decade before the American Civil War, Anthony took a prominent role in the New York anti-slavery and temperance movements. In 1849, at age 29, she became secretary for the Daughters of Temperance, which gave her a forum to speak out against alcohol abuse, and served as the beginning of Anthony's movement towards the public limelight.
In 1851, on a street in Seneca Falls, Anthony was introduced to Elizabeth Cady Stanton by mutual acquaintance, as well as fellow feminist Amelia Bloomer. Anthony joined with Stanton in organizing the first women's state temperance society in America after being refused admission to a previous convention on account of her sex, in 1851. Stanton remained a close friend and colleague of Anthony's for the remainder of their lives, but Stanton longed for a broader, more radical women's rights platform. Together, the two women traversed the US giving speeches and attempting to persuade the government that society should treat men and women equally.
After the first American women's rights convention took place in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, Anthony took the opportunity to attend and support the women's rights convention held in Syracuse in 1852. It was around this time that Anthony began to gain widespread notoriety as a powerful public advocate of women's rights and as a new and stirring voice for change.
In 1856 Anthony further attempted to unify the African-American and women's rights movements when, recruited by abolitionist Abby Kelley she became agent for William Lloyd Garrison's American Anti-Slavery Society of New York State. Speaking at the Ninth National Women’s Rights Convention in 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?"
In 1869, long-time friends Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony found themselves, for the first time, on opposing sides of a debate. The Equal Rights Association, which had originally fought for both blacks’ and women’s right to suffrage, voted to support the 15th Amendment to the Constitution granting suffrage to black men, but not women. Anthony questioned why women should support this amendment when black men were not continuing to show support for women’s voting rights. Partially as a result of the decision by the Equal Rights Association, Anthony soon thereafter devoted herself almost exclusively to the agitation for women's rights.
In 1868, Anthony first published a weekly journal entitled The Revolution. Anthony worked as the publisher and business manager, while Elizabeth Cady Stanton acted as editor. The main thrust of The Revolution was to promote women’s and African-Americans’ right to suffrage, but it also discussed issues of equal pay for equal work, more liberal divorce laws, the church’s position on women’s issues and abortion, which she opposed. The journal was backed by independently wealthy George Francis Train, who provided $600 in starting funds.
On November 18, 1872, Anthony was arrested by a US Deputy Marshal for alleged illegal voting in the presidential election two weeks earlier. She had written to Stanton on the night of the election that she had "positively voted the Republican ticket – straight...".
She was tried and convicted seven months later, despite her stirring and eloquent arguments that the recently adopted Fourteenth Amendment, which guaranteed to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States" the privileges of citizenship, and which contained no sex qualification, gave women the constitutional right to vote in federal elections. The sentence was a fine, but not imprisonment; and true to her word in court, she never paid the penalty for the rest of her life. The trial gave Anthony the opportunity to spread her arguments to a wider audience than ever before.
Susan B. Anthony, who died 14 years, 5 months and five days before passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, was honored as the first real (non-allegorical) American woman on circulating US coinage with her appearance on the Susan B. Anthony dollar. The coin, approximately the size of a U.S. quarter, was minted for only four years, 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1999. Anthony dollars were produced at the Philadelphia and Denver mints for all four years, and at the San Francisco mint for all production years except 1999. (info from Wikipedia)