Susan B. Anthony: Celebrating "A Heroic Life"


Celebrating "A Heroic Life"

1861-1870

On November 22, 1862 Frederick Douglass writes to his fellow abolitionist Theodore Tilton that "Our friend Miss Anthony is at home watching by the bedside of her father who has been quite ill--but now convalescent." Douglass’s optimistic prognosis proved wrong; Daniel Anthony died three days later.

During the Civil War the leaders of the woman's movement suspended agitation on behalf of their own rights in order to concentrate on the abolition of slavery. On May 14, 1863, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton called a meeting of the Women's National Loyal League. The League called for the immediate abolition of slavery: "...when a mother lays her son on the altar of her country, she ask an object equal of the sacrifice."

Anthony wrote a letter to Amy Post on the second leaf of the Call for a Meeting of the Loyal Women of the Nation.

The Women’s Loyal National League gathered 100,000 signatures on petitions of women and men who "earnestly pray that your honorable body will pass at the earliest practicable day an act emancipating all persons of African descent held to involuntary service or labor in the United States."

In this speech, published by the League, Senator Charles Sumner acknowledges the receipt of the petitions. Published with Sumner’s remarks is Susan B. Anthony’s exhortation to women to continue the petition work.

After Daniel Anthony’s death, his widow sold the farm and moved into the city. The 1866-67 Rochester city directory lists Lucy Anthony as living at 7 Madison Street. The street was later renumbered and the Anthony House became, as it is today, 17 Madison Street.

The 1866 Woman's Rights Convention was the first held since the beginning of the Civil War. The call to the Convention reflects Stanton and Anthony’s concern that the proposed fourteenth amendment would extend suffrage to black males only. In an enclosed note to Amy Post, Anthony writes: "I hope you will be at the convention. We shall need every woman & man who really believes now is the hour for woman to demand the ballot."

The American Equal Rights Association was formed in 1866 as a coalition between woman's rights and anti-slavery organizations. Its purpose was to agitate for universal suffrage. It soon became apparent that many abolitionists felt that the demand for woman's suffrage would harm the chances for black male suffrage, and they considered this the "Negro's hour," not woman’s.

A New York State Constitutional Convention was held in June 1867. During the last months of 1866 and the beginning of 1867, Anthony and Stanton organized a series of meetings throughout the state "to adopt measures to engraft the principle of universal suffrage upon the constitution of the state." In this letter to Amy Post Anthony enclosed a press release announcing the meeting to be held in Rochester on December 11, 1866. Speakers were to include Stanton, Lucy Stone, Charles Lenox Remond, and Frederick Douglass. Notice that workingwomen were offered free tickets.

Susan B. Anthony writes Amy Post on February 14, 1867 about the upcoming vote in Kansas on two separate amendments: one that would extend suffrage to African-American males and one to all women.

Stanton and Anthony traveled throughout Kansas on behalf of the woman suffrage amendment. When their old allies in the abolitionist movement and the Republican Party offered no financial support, they accepted the help of George Francis Train, a wealthy, flamboyant, eccentric Democrat who many abolitionists and suffragists considered a "raving lunatic" for his racist views. After the referendum was defeated in Kansas, Train sponsored a lecture tour by Stanton, Anthony, and himself. This is a ticket for their appearance at Corinthian Hall in Rochester on December 2, 1867.

George Francis Train provided the funds to fulfill one of Anthony’s long held dreams of a woman’s rights newspaper. The Revolution first appeared on January 8, 1868 with Susan B. Anthony as publisher and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Parker Pillsbury as co-editors. The paper's articles and editorials reflected their radical views on issues affecting the political, social, sexual, economic, and educational status of women. Shortly after the first issue appeared George Francis Train left for Ireland where he was soon jailed for his support of the Fenian cause. Without Train’s financial backing, The Revolution went bankrupt, and in 1870 Anthony was forced to give up the paper.

In New York City, Anthony organized a Working Women’s Association to encourage employed women to form unions to fight for higher wages and shorter hours. In this September 15, 1868 letter to the Rochester chapter of the Working Women's Association, Anthony urges them to send delegates to the upcoming Working Men’s National Labor Union Congress that was to meet in New York the following week. Anthony attended the Congress where her resolutions for an eight-hour day and equal pay for equal work were adopted, but not her resolution in support of woman suffrage.

On February 15, 1870 a large gathering of Susan B. Anthony’s friends and supporters met in New York City to celebrate her fiftieth birthday. The poem Phoebe Cary wrote for the occasion was published in Rochester as a keepsake.

At a contentious annual convention of the American Equal Rights Association in May 1869, it became clear that this organization would not support women’s political rights. The day after the AERA meeting ended, Stanton, Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Ernestine Rose, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Martha C. Wright and women from nineteen states met to form the National Woman Suffrage Association; an organization dedicated to adding an amendment to the federal Constitution that would give women the vote. A year later the story of the NWSA's origins was published in the May 26, 1870 issue of The Revolution.

Lucy Stone, her husband Henry Blackwell, Julia Ward Howe and other New England Republicans were outraged by Anthony and Stanton’s opposition to the Fifteenth Amendment, their association with George Francis Train, and their interest in divorce and labor issues. In November 1869 they formed a rival organization, the American Woman Suffrage Association. Unlike the NWSA, they avoided controversial issues and put their efforts into winning state suffrage referendums. The split in the suffrage movement lasted for the next twenty years.

The background on these pages was created from an image of a handkerchief that belonged to Susan B. Anthony.

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