Upstate New York and the Women's Rights Movement

Below are the text and selected images from a 1995 exhibition in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of Rochester Library. The exhibition commemorated the seventy-fifth anniversary of the passage of the nineteenth amendment, which gave women the vote in 1920.

Mary M. Huth, Assistant Head of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections until her retirement in 2010, curated the exhibition. Unless otherwise noted, all the materials are from the Department's collections. Permission to publish the images must be obtained from the Department. 

See also the online exhibition Susan B. Anthony: Celebrating "A Heroic Life" which is also based on the Department's collections. 




A full report of the woman's rights agitation in the State of New York, would in a measure be the history of the movement. In this State, the preliminary battles in the anti-slavery, temperance, educational, and religious societies were fought; the first Governmental aid given to higher education of woman, and her voice first heard in teachers' associations. Here the first Woman's Rights Convention was held, the first demand made for suffrage, the first society formed for this purpose, and the first legislative efforts made to secure the civil and political rights of women; commanding the attention of leading members of the bar....Here too the pulpit made the first demand for the political rights of woman. Here was the first temperance society formed by women, the first medical college opened to them, and woman first ordained for the ministry.

History of Woman Suffrage, volume 1, page 472.  


Mary Wollstonecraft. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Boston, 1792. Second American edition.

This pioneering work by British author Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) provided a foundation for the women's rights movement in the nineteenth century. Wollstonecraft's argument was "built on this simple principle that, if woman be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge, for truth must be common to all."
Frances Wright. Views of Society and Manners in America. New York, 1821. First American edition.

Frances WrightAt the age of twenty-two the English writer and reformer Frances Wright (1795-1852) made her first visit to the United States. In her travel memoirs she contrasted the women of American with their European counterparts. Her enthusiasm for the new republic led her to believe that in the United Sates, "women are assuming their place as thinking beings, not in despite of the men, but chiefly in consequence of their enlarged views and exertions as fathers and legislators."
Harriet Martineau. Society in America. New York, 1837. First American edition.

The English woman Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) visited the United States from 1834 to 1836. She noted the condition of women in a society that proclaimed freedom and justice for all, but denied these rights to half its population.
Margaret Fuller. Woman in the Nineteenth Century. New York, 1845. First edition.

Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) was a member of the Transcendentalist circle that included Emerson and Hawthorne. From 1840 to 1842 she edited the Transcendentalist literary quarterly, The Dial. In the July 1843 issue her article "The Great Lawsuit: Man Versus Men: Woman Versus Women" appeared. She revised and expanded this article into Woman in the Nineteenth Century, which had a profound influence on the development of American feminists theory.
John Stuart Mill. The Subjection of Women. London, 1869. First edition, author's presentation copy.

John Stuart Mill's (1806-1873) major classic of feminist writing was published in America shortly after it appeared in England. It was enthusiastically adopted by leaders of the woman's rights movement for its analysis of the position of women in society.


The First Annual Report of the Trustees of the Female Missionary Society of the Western District. Utica, 1817.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries a wave of religious revivals swept across New England and New York State. The converted were exhorted to work for the salvation of others. Women's participation in this undertaking was welcomed, and through organizations such as the Female Missionary Society of the Western District they raised money to spread the Gospel, found churches, and distribute tracts. These undertakings gave women their first experience in working together for a semi-public cause.
Samuel J. May. The Rights and Condition of Women. Syracuse,1846.

The Rights and Condition of WomenMay, a Unitarian minister in Syracuse, was one of the first ministers to address his congregation on the rights of women:

We may, with no more propriety assume to govern woman, than they might assume to govern us. And never will the nations of the earth be well governed, until both sexes... are fairly represented.

Sarah Grimke. Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, and the Condition of Woman. Boston, 1838. First edition.

Women became as active in the abolitionist cause as they had been in benevolent work. Their activities on behalf of the slave were much more public, however, and included petitioning and public speaking. In this famous tract, the South Carolinian Sarah Grimk‚ defended the right of women to speak in public in defense of a moral cause since both "men and woman were created equal; they are both moral and accountable beings, and whatever is right for man to do, is right for woman."
Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York. 67th session, vol. 3, document 96. Albany, 1844.

A petition to change the New York State law and allow women to retain ownership of the property they possessed before marriage, was first introduced in 1836. Yearly petitions presented to the Legislature were denied. In this 1844 report, the Judiciary Committee found against the proposal saying that such a law would make women too independent of their husbands and undermine marriage, morals, and the state itself. The bill was finally passed in 1848, making New York the first state to pass a married woman's property law.
The Lawes Resolutions of Womens Rights: or, The Lawes Provision for Woemen. London, 1632.

New York State followed English common law in regard to the right of women to retain their property after marriage. This 1632 compilation of laws regarding women states:

Whatsoever the Husband had before Coverture either in goods or lands, it is absolutely his owne, the wife hath therein no seisin at all...

For thus it is, if before Marriage the Woman were possessed of Horses, Neate, Sheepe, Cowe, Wool, Money, Plate and Jewels, all manner of moveable substance is presently by coniunation the husbands, to sell, keepe, or bequeath if he die: And though he bequeath them not, yet are they the Husbands Executors and not the wives which brought them to her Husband.

Laws of the State of New-York, Passed at the Seventy-first Session of the Legislature. Albany, 1848.

Opened to chapter 200: An Act of the More Effectual Protection of the Property of Married Women.
Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York. 71st session, vol. 5, document 129. Albany, 1848.

On March 15, 1848, four months prior to the first woman's rights convention in Seneca Falls, forty-four women of Genesee and Wyoming County declared to the New York State Assembly that they owed no allegiance to the government since they were deprived of their political rights. Their petition states: When women are allowed the privileges of rational and accountable beings, it will be soon enough to expect from them the duties of such.

The Seneca Falls and Rochester Conventions

When the World Anti-Slavery Convention met in London during June 1840, the American delegation included women. After an extended debate, the convention ruled that only male delegates could be seated. Among the women assigned to sit silently behind a curtain were Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Indignant that women had no rights, even within the ranks of reform movements, the two decided to hold a women's rights convention when they returned to America.

Contemporary copy of a letter from James and Lucretia Mott to their children written from London on June 14, 1840:

We have seen but few sights & must now leave them until the Convention is over which commenced on 6th day the 12th. On that day the question of receiving the women from America who had credentials as delegates was warmly debated for four hours and after an exhibition of a prejudice similar to that which exists in America against color aye and against women too it was decided to exclude them by about 3 to 1...the meeting became restless and seeing no hope of changing the evident large number against their admission the question was taken and now they can only sit as spectators.
Using the Declaration of Independence as a model, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote a Declaration of Sentiments to be presented at the Seneca Falls Convention. Beginning with the premise that "all men and women are created equal," Stanton listed eighteen legal grievances suffered by women, including the denial of franchise and of the rights to their wages, their persons, and their children. The document also called attention to women's limited educational and economic opportunities and protested against the double standard of morality. The Declaration was followed by a series of resolutions, including the demand for woman suffrage. The only resolution that met opposition, it was finally adopted after much discussion.

Seneca Falls ReportReport of the Woman's Rights Convention Held at Seneca Falls, N.Y., July 19th and 20th, 1848. Rochester, 1848.

On July 14, 1848, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton issued a call in the Seneca County Courier inviting the public to attend a convention at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls on July 19 and 20, "to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition of women."Frederick Douglass attended the Convention and the proceedings of the Convention were published at his press in theNorth Star office.

Mary H. HallowellSarah Hallowell WillisAmong the Rochesterians who attended the Seneca Falls Convention were Mary H. Hallowell (left) and Sarah Hallowell Willis (right). They were elected secretaries of the Woman's Rights Convention held a month later in Rochester. The photographs were taken in 1911.

Amy Post also attended the Seneca Falls Convention. On October 15, 1848, her brother- in-law John Willis wrote her from Long Island:

I thought when I received that Rochester paper [the North Star] giving an account of the woman's convention and of their rights and what they wanted, and what they intended to petition for, untill they had obtained it, that I would write up to Isaac [Amy's husband] and request him to persuade his wife to try to have a little more stability, and to act more like a sensable woman....what thee seems to complain the most of is not having the privilage of going to the poles and giving thy vote, and not being drawn to serve on jurors and to be appointed sheriffs and all in fact every office that man fills thee wants the privilage of having....

Frederick Douglass' NotesFrederick Douglass attended both the Seneca Falls and Rochster conventions. These notes, taken at the Rochester Woman's Rights Convention by an unknown person, are written on the verso of a printed prospectus for Douglass's anti-slavery newspaper the North Star. Proceedings of the Woman's Rights Convention Held at the Unitarian Church, Rochester, N.Y. New York, 1870.

The Seneca Falls Convention reconvened in Rochester on August 2, 1848. At this convention resolutions were passed in favor of securing women the franchise, dropping the word "obey" from the marriage vows, and helping women secure better wages.

Manuscript by Amy PostThe original manuscript minutes taken by Amy Post at the Rochester Convention.

Abigail BushAbigail Bush was elected President of the Rochester convention and she conducted the meetings. This was a true departure from tradition, and Bush became the first woman to preside over a public meeting attended by both men and women. In this 1898 letter to Susan B. Anthony, Bush writes that her action"ended the feeling with women that they must have a man to preside at their meetings."

To Susan B. Anthony, Greetings

You will bear me witness that the state of society is very different from what it was fifty years ago when I presided at the woman's Rights Convention.

I had not been able to meet in council at all with the friends, on account of sickness in my family untill I met them in the hall as the congregation were gathering & then fell into the hands of those who urged me to take part with the supporters of a woman serving as the president of the meeting. They had James Mott, a fine-looking man, to preside at Seneca Falls, but his head fell at the hands of my old friends Amy Post, Rhoda DeGarmo and Sarah Fish, who at once commenced laboring with me to prove the hour had come when a woman could preside and led me into the church. Amy proposed my name as president. It was accepted at once, and from that hour I seemed endowed as from on high to serve through two day's meetings and three sessions per day. On my taking the chair Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton left the platform and took seats in the audience, but this did not move me from performing all of my duties; and at the close of the first session Lucretia Mott came forward, folded me tenderly in her arms and thanked me for presiding. The Unitarian Church was open for us. I do not suppose another church in the city would have been. When I found that my labors were finished, my strength seemed to leave me and I cried like a baby. But that ended the feeling with women that they must have a man to preside at their meetings.

From that day to this, in all the walks of like, I have been faithful in asserting that there should be no taxation without representation. It has seemed a long day in coming, but I think it draws nearer and that woman will be acknowledged as an equal with man. Heaven grant the day may come soon!

With kind love to all the workers.

Affectionately, Abigail Bush 
88 years old 

The Syracuse Convention

The Proceedings of the Woman's Rights Convention Held at Syracuse. Syracuse, 1852.

The third national woman's rights convention was held in Syracuse on September 8 to 10, 1852. This was the first convention attended by Susan B. Anthony.
Matilda Joslyn Gage. "Speech of Mrs. M. E. J. Gage at the Woman's Rights Convention held at Syracuse, Sept. 1852." In: Commensurate With Her Capacities and Obligations, Are Woman' s Rights. A Series of Tracts. Syracuse, 1853.

Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898) was born in Cicero, New York and lived in Fayetteville, New York after her marriage in 1845. Gage, who became a prominent organizer and writer for the cause, first attended a woman's rights convention when it was held in Syracuse in 1852. Here she delivered a speech which strongly criticized woman's subservience and advocated educational and legal equality for women.

The UnaPaulina Wright Davis (1813-1876) was born in Bloomfield, New York and lived in Niagara Falls, LeRoy, and Utica before moving to Providence, Rhode Island, after her second marriage in 1849. Davis was active in petitioning the New York State Legislature during the 1830s for a married woman's property law. An early participant in the woman's rights movement, she helped organize several conventions. In 1853, Davis began publishing the woman's rights newspaper,The Una. Shown is volume 1, number 1, February 1, 1853.

From the collections of the Susan B. Anthony House.

Letter from Paulina Wright Davis to William Henry Seward, August 22, 1852.

Davis wrote Seward, the former Governor of New York State and then United States Senator, to invite him to attend the Woman's Rights Convention to be held in Syracuse the following month. Seward neither attended the convention, nor honored Davis's suggestion that he express his views on women's rights in a letter to be read at the convention.

Amy Post and Other Upstate New York Feminists

Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825-1921), the first woman to be ordained in the United States by a mainstream denomination, was born in Henrietta, New York. She studied at the Monroe County Academy and graduated from Oberlin College in 1847. She met resistance from her family and Oberlin officials when she applied to continue her studies in theology. She was finally allowed to take the courses, but denied a degree when she completed the program in 1850. For two years after leaving Oberlin she lectured on woman's rights, temperance, and anti-slavery. On September 15, 1853, she was ordained as the minister of the First Congregational Church in Butler and Savannah, Wayne County, New York. After her marriage to Samuel Blackwell in 1856, she continued to speak and write on behalf of woman's rights.

In this letter, printed in the March, 1855 issue of the Una, Antoinette Brown describes the hardships and prejudices she encountered as a parish minister.

Letter by Antoinette BrownIn this letter of September 3, 1851 to Amy Post, Antoinette Brown writes that she has "concluded to devote my time for this winter principally to the cause of Woman-- am preparing a long course of lectures to be ready for any emergency."

Amy (1802-1889) and Isaac (1798-1872) Post moved to Rochester from Long Island in 1836. They were active advocates of temperance, spiritualism, and abolition. They were close friends of Frederick Douglass and their home on Sophia Street was a station on the underground railroad. Amy Post was equally dedicated the question of woman's rights and attended the Seneca Falls and Rochester conventions in 1848. Shown here and throughout the exhibition are letters to Amy Post from several leaders of the movement.

Letter from Amy Post to Isaac Post written in July, 1867 from a meeting of the American Equal Rights Association.

William Henry Channing (1810-1884) was the minister of the Unitarian Society in Rochester between 1852 and 1854. An advocate of women's rights, Channing attended the 1852 Syracuse Convention. In this issue of the Una (February, 1854), he placed a notice requesting men and women to sign two petitions, one for the just and equal rights of women in regard to wages and children and another in support of woman suffrage. The petitions came out of a convention held at Corinthian Hall in Rochester the previous November.

From the collection of the Susan B. Anthony House.

Lucy Colman (1817-1906), an ardent abolitionist and advocate of women's rights, was a close friend of Amy Post. Shown is her Reminiscences (Buffalo: Green, 1891).

Proceedings of the Yearly Meeting of the Friends of Human Progress Held at Waterloo, Seneca Co., N.Y. (Rochester: 1859).

At their June 3-5, 1859 meeting the Friends of Human Progress passed resolutions condemning slavery and calling on women "to cultivate in themselves a firmer self- reliance, and a bolder practical assertion of their rights to engage in any and every useful vocation to which they are demonstratively adapted." Amy Post served as secretary of the meeting, and Lucy Colman was on the business committee.

Dress Reform

Dexter Chamberlin Bloomer. Life and Writings of Amelia Bloomer. Boston, 1895.

Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894) was born in Homer, Cortland County. As a young woman she taught school in Clyde and Waterloo, and after her marriage in 1840 to Dexter C. Bloomer she moved to Seneca Falls. The LilyHere in 1849 she began to publish The Lily. Initially the newspaper was devoted to the cause of temperance, but soon articles on woman's rights and dress reform began to appear. In 1852 Bloomer launched her career as a lecturer, when she spoke before the Daughters of Temperance in Rochester. In 1855 she and her husband moved to Iowa, where Bloomer continued to work for the rights of women.
Copies of The Lily from the collection of the Susan B. Anthony House.

Letter from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Amy Post:

Dear Friend

Allow me to introduce to you Mrs. Bloomer of Seneca Falls. Editor of the Lily, a paper devoted to temperance & literature, with a sensible infusion of woman's rights, - Mrs. Bloomer wishes to get subscribers to her paper. Will you aid her what you can. We women's rights women ought to do all in our power to sustain every effort in the part of women; to open for herself a higher and evener road to fortune & fame, than the old beaten ones of the needle, teaching & marriage as a necessity. That women are beginning to edit papers is a promising sign of the times. Do what you can for the Lily. I should think we might get some subscribers in Junius. What do you think? - whatever you do for the Lily I shall esteem a personal favor as I feel interested in its success ...

The Lily, volume 8, no. 6 (June, 1851).

In the April 1851 issue of The Lily Amelia Bloomer advocated that women abandon their unhealthy tight stays, impractical long skirts, and restricitive petticoats for a new mode of dress consisting of a loose tunic and short skirt worn over Turkish-style pantaloons. Because the first notice of the new style appeared in her newspaper, Bloomer's name became attached to the costume, although it was first worn by Gerrit Smith's daughter Elizabeth Smith Miller.

This issue of The Lily includes an editorial on "Short Dresses" and a letter from a subscriber who reviews the healthful and social benefits to be derived from dress reform and asks for instructions on how to make the "new (and I am sure delightful) Turkish dress."

From the collection of the Susan B. Anthony House

Bloomer Waltz CoverSheet music for the Bloomer Waltz (NY, 1851), composed by William Dressler. The hand-colored lithograph of a bloomer costume is glamorized, and doesn't look too much more comfortable than a conventional dress of the period.

Godey's Lady's Book, volume 47, November 1853.

This plate shows the cumbersome, heavy, and impractical garments that were in fashion when the bloomer costume was introduced as an alternative style.

In this printed letter to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gerrit Smith declared that the women's rights movement would never succeed as long as women insisted on wearing fashionable rather than practical dresses. Women, said Smith, must escape "the kingdom of fancy and fashion and foolery" for the kingdom of reason and righteousness."

Gerrit Smith. "To the Reform Dress Association." May 18, 1857

In this circular Gerrit Smith has harsh words for advocates of women's rights who did not support the dress reform movement: "the woman, whose soul is capable of casting from her person the absurd and degrading dress, in which fashion has bound it, can aid that cause. No other woman can."
Letter from Paulina Wright Davis to Emma R. Coe, August 17, 1851.

Davis writes that she does not intend to attend the upcoming Bloomer Festival in New York. "Though the reform in dress is important it is but a fragment of the great work." 
She refers to women like Elizabeth Oaks Smith, whose beauty will "give grace and elegance to our movement." Susan B. Anthony, unimpressed by Smith's elegance, prevented her from presiding over the 1852 Syracuse convention because Smith was wearing a fancy, low-cut, white dress.

Elizabeth Smith MillerElizabeth Smith Miller is credited with designing and first wearing what became known as the "bloomer costume." In this 1905 photograph she poses with Susan B. Anthony (top right), her daughter Ann Fitzhugh Miller (botton left) and Mary S. Anthony.

Harper's New Monthly Magazine, volume 3, 1852.

Harper's New Monthly MagazineThis satirical look at dress reform first appeared in the English publication, Punch. Dress reformers were subject to so much ridicule that they were finally forced to return to their conventional dress. The bloomer, they soon realized, was receiving much more attention than the women's rights arguments made by its wearers.

Women's Education

Emma Willard. A System of Universal History in Perspective. Hartford, CT, 1835.

Emma Willard (1787-1870) founded the Troy Female Seminary in 1821. Here young women had the opportunity to take courses in classical and scientific studies on the same academic level as those being taught in male colleges. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a student at Troy Female Seminary, graduating in 1832.

This copy of Emma Willard's textbook was used at the Seward Seminary, a school for girls operated in Rochester by Sarah T. Seward, another graduate of Troy Female Seminary.


In this March 11, 1852 letter, Emma Willard asks William Henry Seward to endorse education for women since "it would excite the gratitude of many female hearts, who gloom in secret with the thought that men despise our intellect and unjustly withhold from us the means which they have dealt to the other sex"

In 1837, Emily E. and Marietta Ingham founded the LeRoy Female Seminary in LeRoy, New York. In 1852, the seminary affiliated with the Genesee Synod of the Presbyterian Church and changed its name to the Ingham Collegiate Institute. In 1857, the school changed its name again to Ingham University. Although Ingham claimed to be "the first to introduce a college curriculum for the education of young ladies," its academic standards were not as rigorous as those at such institutions as Elmira College, founded in 1855.

In 1852, two years after the founding of the University of Rochester, an attempt was made to establish a local college for women. Subscriptions of some $15,000 were pledged and a Board of Trustees was selected with Azariah Boody as President, Jacob Gould as Treasurer, and Lewis Henry Morgan as Secretary. After an auspicious beginning, the enterprise floundered, apparently due to financial difficulties. These minutes of the Board of Trustees of the Barleywood Female University, as recorded by Lewis Henry Morgan, end abruptly in 1853.

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman to receive a medical degree. Determined to study medicine, she applied to all the major medical schools before being accepted at Geneva College in 1847. Blackwell (misspelled "Blackwill") is the fifth medical student listed in this 1847-48 catalog of the College

Lydia Folger Fowler and Sarah Dolley were the second and third women to receive a degree in medicine. They both graduated from Rochester's Central Medical College (Fowler in 1850, Dolley in 1851). Shown is a description of the College from the 1851- 52 Directory of the City of Rochester and a statement from the College endorsing female medical students that appeared in the May, 1850 issue of the Lily.

Genesee College in Lima, New York, was founded in 1850 as a co-educational institution. Its most famous graduate was Belva Lockwood (class of 1857), who in 1879 became the first woman lawyer admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States.

The University of Rochester was founded in 1850 as an all male institution. In the 1880s, women began to petition the University to open its doors to female students. Finally in 1898 the Board of Trustees voted to allow women to enter the University if they defrayed expenses by raising $100,000 (approximately $2,000,000 in today's money). A committee of women led by Helen Barrett Montgomery raised $40,000 over the next two years. In June, 1900 the Board agreed to admit women students that September if the women could secure another $10,000.

During the summer of 1900, the committee was able to raise another $2,000, but the day before the deadline they were still $8,000 short. At this point, Susan B. Anthony took charge of collecting the remaining money. She solicited the first $2,000 from her sister Mary, the second from Sarah Willis, and the third from Rev. and Mrs. William Channing Gannett. Still short, $2,000, Susan B. Anthony pledged her life insurance policy, thus guaranteeing the admission of women to the University of Rochester in the fall of 1900.

Minutes of the Board of Trustees for September 8, 1900, the day Susan B. Anthony, Helen Montgomery, Fannie Bigelow presented the last of the $50,000 in pledges for co- education.

Susan B. Anthony NoteNote written by Susan B. Anthony on the occasion of the third class of women entering the University in September, 1902:

"Today--I hope will see thirty or forty more than 68--pupils enter the Rochester University. May their numbers increase--until the daughters of the city shall be all thoroughly educated...."
Susan B. Anthony and Jean Brooks GreenleafThis photograph of Susan B. Anthony (right) and Jean Brooks Greenleaf (left) was taken at Greenleaf's Rochester home shortly after the University of Rochester was open to women students. Greenleaf was the president of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association for several years.

Vera Cadsey Twitchell wrote this letter sixty years after she entered the University of Rochester as a freshman in the fall of 1900. In it she recalls the excitement she felt when women were admitted to the University, and the hostile reception she and the other women students received from many of the men students.

1904 Graduating ClassThe women graduates in the class of 1904. Vera Cadsey Twitchell is the sixth from the left.

In his 1901 report to the Trustees, President Rush Rhees expressed his preference for "co- ordinate education," where men and women attend the same college, take most of their classes and laboratory work together, but in certain courses, where more delicate subjects may be discussed, such as literature, physiology, and hygiene, there be separate sections to "allow for full and frank consideration to all phases of the matter under discussion."

The first issue of the Croceus (1910), the yearbook of the College for Women, was dedicated to the memory of Susan B. Anthony "as a token of the love, appreciation and gratitude of the women of the University of Rochester."  

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton


Susan B. Anthony was born in Adams, Massachusetts. At the age of six she moved with her family to Battenville, New York, where her father ran a cotton mill. The mill was not a financial success, and the Anthonys relocated in 1845 to a farm outside Rochester. In 1846 Anthony left Rochester to teach school in Canajoharie, New York ; she returned in 1849 to manage the family farm. Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips were frequent guests in the Anthony home, and her interest naturally turned to the reform movements of the day. She began her public career in the temperance and abolitionist movements. As a teacher, she learned that men and women were not given equal pay for equal work; as a reformer she learned that women were not allowed to hold leadership positions, or even speak in public. Beginning in 1852, when she attended her first woman's rights convention in Syracuse, Anthony dedicated her life to securing political, civil, and economic equality for women.

Susan B. AnthonhySusan B. Anthony at the age of twenty-eight.

On June 17, 1852 the New York State Temperance Society met in Syracuse for its annual convention. Susan B. Anthony, Gerrit Smith, and Amelia Bloomer were delegates appointed to the convention by the Woman's State Temperance Society, which Anthony had founded the previous April. Because the convention refused to accept the credentials of the women delegates or allow them to speak, the women and their supporters adjourned to the Wesleyan Chapel where they held their own meeting. Anthony delivered a speech, which was published in the July, 1852 issue of the Lily. It is one of her earliest addresses. 
From the collection of the Susan B. Anthony House

In the winter of 1853 Susan B. Anthony inaugurated a petition campaign to help secure for married women the right to retain their own wages and have equal guardianship of their children. In 1854 she presented to the New York State Legislature petitions containing 10,000 signatures.

In this 1853 letter to George W. Jonson, a Buffalo attorney, Anthony asks "How may women in the State of New York be placed on the ground of Legal Equality with men?"and asks his assistance in drawing up forms of petitions to present to the Legislature.

Susan B. Anthony writes on September 18, 1854 to the feminist author and Suffragist Elizabeth Oakes Smith about her book Bertha and Lily:

I seldom read a romance, my nature is too practical, too utilitarian but there is not a sentence in Bertha & Lily but tells for the progress of the true & the right.

On October 1, 1855 Susan B. Anthony wrote to Amy Post that she has lined up Wendell Phillips, Theodore Parker, William Lloyd Garrison, and Charles Lenox Remond as speakers for a series of anti-slavery lectures to be given in Rochester in November. The letter was written from the Worcester Hydropathic Institute, where Anthony was supposedly resting and recuperating from a back ailment.

Susan B. AnthonySusan B. Anthony in 1856, at the age of thirty-six.



Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born in Johnstown, New York. Her father Daniel Cady was a lawyer who later became a judge on the New York Supreme Court. Stanton graduated from Troy Female Seminary in 1832. Through her cousin Gerrit Smith she became involved in the temperance and anti-slavery movements; in 1840 she married the abolitionist Henry B. Stanton. Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first woman's rights convention, which met in July, 1848 in Seneca Falls, where Stanton lived with her husband and seven children. Stanton was a liberal thinker who challenged women to overcome any barrier of state or church that limited their sphere.

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton met in 1851. They remained friends and collaborators in the women's rights movement for the next fifty years. Stanton was the theoretician of the cause, Anthony its organizer. Stanton wrote of their relationship:

In thought and sympathy we were one, and in the division of labor we exactly complimented each other. I am the better writer, she the better critic. She supplied the facts and statistics, I the philosophy and rhetoric, and together we have made arguments that have stood unshaken through the storms of long years; arguments that no one has answered.
Eighty Years and More
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady StantonSusan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.


Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Eighty Years and More. (N.Y.: 1898).

This copy of Stanton's autobiography was owned by Rochesterian Mary H. Hallowell, who attended the first woman's rights convention in Seneca Falls.
Ida Husted Harper. The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony. Indianapolis, 1899 (volumes 1 and 2); 1908 (volume 3).

Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Address to the Legislature of New- York. Albany, 1854.

Address to the LegislatureStanton was the first woman to speak before the New York State Legislature. In her address she outlined the legal disabilities of women and the need to broaden the married women's property laws.

Rochester June 20/55

Mr. Bingham

Enclosed is a form of Petition as drawn by Mrs. Stanton - Does it meet your approbation? Would it not be well to in-sert after under signed in the last paragraph the words Men & Women Petition. Please make such suggestions as you think best.

Enclosed also is the Call for our Saratoga W.R. Convention - if convenient for you, will you call the attention of your Editors to the notice - they will without doubt publish it gratuitously - all of our Editors have done so. I hope to see you & Mrs. Bingham at our Saratoga meeting.

Yours Respectfully 
Susan B. Anthony

Call for Meeting of Nation's WomenDuring 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 gathered hundreds of thousands of petitions calling for a Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery.

Stanton and Anthony often led the way on controversial issues. At the 1860 Woman's Rights Convention Stanton made several resolutions in favor of divorce under certain circumstances. The resolutions caused a furor. Even such staunch supporters as Wendell Phillips backed away from the divorce question. In this letter of June 5, 1860 to Susan B. Anthony he writes:

I note what you say about "Marriage & Divorce" & have read what Mrs. Stanton says--of course it is no right & no wish of mine to dictate what shall be our platform...[but] whatever it is understood that the platform will include these questions I shall have nothing to do with the Convention - & wish my name wholly disconnected therefrom.
The 1866 Woman's Rights Convention was the first held since the beginning of the Civil War. The call to the Convention reflects Stanton's 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 the agitate for suffrage for former slaves and women. It soon became apparent that many abolitionists felt that the demand for woman's suffrage would harm the chances for black suffrage, and they considered this the "Negro's hour," not woman's. In 1869, Stanton and Anthony founded the National American Woman Suffrage Association to work solely the enfranchisement of women.

Susan B. Anthony to Amy Post, December 2, 1866 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." With this letter 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 working women were offered free tickets.

Ticket for Corinthian HallIn 1867, Kansas held a referendum on black and woman suffrage. Stanton and Anthony went there to campaign for woman suffrage. When their old allies in the Republican Party would not support them, they accepted the help of George Francis Train, a flamboyant Democrat with very eccentric ideas. 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.

Susan B. Anthony to the Working Women's Association of Rochester, September 15, 1868 When the National Labor Congress met on September 21, 1868, in New York City, Anthony attended as a delegate of the Workingman's Association. In this letter to the Rochester chapter, she urges them to send delegates to the Congress.

Susan B. AnthonySusan B. Anthony in 1868.

A letter dated October 26, 1869 from Lucy Stone to Amy Post inviting Mrs. Post to attend the first convention of the American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1869 the suffrage movement split over tactical and philosophical differences. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Suffrage Association. Their organization worked for the defeat of the fifteenth amendment if it did not include women. They also supported more lenient divorce laws and organizing working women into unions. Lucy Stone declares in this letter that the American Association "will not attack the 15th Amendment nor complicate the question of woman suffrage with side issues." The two associations did not reconcile until 1890, when they joined forces to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

The RevolutionThe Revolution first appeared in January, 1868 with Susan B. Anthony as publisher, 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. George Francis Train promised to finance the papers but he was jailed in Ireland for his political views. Without his backing , The Revolution went into debt, and in 1870 Anthony was forced to give up the paper.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, on naming the Revolution:

There could not be a better name than Revolution. The establishing of woman on her rightful throne is the greatest revolution the world has every known or ever will know. To bring it about is no child's play... a journal called the Rosebud might answer for those who come with kid gloves and perfumes to lay immortal wreaths on the monuments which in sweat and tears others have hewn and built; but for us and for that great blacksmith of ours [Parker Pillsbury] who forges such red-hot thunderbolts for Pharisees, hypocrites, and sinners there is no name like the Revolution.
In August, 1866, a year and a half before the first issue of The Revolution appeared, Anthony wrote Edwin A. Studwell of her hopes and plans for a newspaper devoted to the promotion of equal rights.

On January 8, 1868, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote to Thurlow Weed, editor of another New York City newspaper, the Commercial Advertiser. She asked him to "please notice with favor our new Paper." Stanton reminded Weed that she and Anthony had done much to change the "odious laws" of New York State, and deserved "a little courtesy from the men of this state."

Elizabeth Cady StantonElizabeth Cady Stanton, 1871.

Trial of Susan B. AnthonyAn Account of the Proceedings of the Trial of Susan B. Anthony on the Charge of Illegal Voting at the Presidential Election in Nov., 1872. Rochester, 1874.

On November 1, 1872, Susan B. Anthony, her three sisters, and fifteen other Rochester women registered to vote after persuading the election inspectors that the Fourteenth Amendment gave them that right. Four days later they cast their ballots, and on November 18, Anthony was arrested for illegal voting. She was tried in Canandaigua the following June. A hostile judge refused to allow her to testify, dismissed the jury, found her guilty, and fined her $100. Although she refused to pay the fine, the judge did not imprison Anthony, thus preventing her from appealing the case to a higher court.

Rochester Nov. 12th 1872

My Dear young Friend

Yes you shall have the Autograph of the first woman who legally registered and voted in the state of New York under the 14th Amendment, which lifts the [freedom] franchise of the citizen above the power of the states to deny, as did the 13th freedom of the person.

All persons are citizens--and no state shall deny or abridge the citizen rights--

Respectfully yours 
Susan B. Anthony

Gerrit Smith. Gerrit Smith to Susan B. Anthony. 1873. 
Gerrit Smith. Woman Suffrage Above Human Law; Letter from Gerrit Smith. 1873

In these two printed letters, Gerrit Smith assures Susan B. Anthony that he supports her decision to vote under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Women's Declartion of RightsNational Woman Suffrage Association. Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States. 1876.

For the Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia on July 4, 1876, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage wrote a Declaration of Rights to be read at the official proceedings, but their request to present it was denied. Undaunted Anthony and four other women decided to go ahead with their plan. when the Declaration of Independence had been read, Anthony and the other women rose from their seats and marched down the aisle to the speakers' rostrum. Here Anthony presented the Declaration to Vice-President Thomas W. Ferry. The women then proceeded back down the aisle while scattering printed copies of the Declaration to the audience.
Susan B. AnthonySusan B. Anthony in 1877.

Letter written by Susan B. Anthony from Ireland, September 3, 1883, to her niece Louisa Mosher. During her nine-month trip to the British Isles and Europe, Anthony met with many feminists and laid plans for the 1888 meeting of the International Council of Women.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Susan B. Anthony, March 10, 1887:

Stanton sends suggestions to Anthony for organizing the first International Council of Women, which met in Washington, DC the following year.
To commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, an International Council of Women was held in Washington, DC in 1888.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage. History of Woman Suffrage. Rochester, 1887. 3 volumes.

The volumes are inscribed by Anthony to the minister of her church, William Channing Gannett, and his wife Mary Lewis Gannett. Both were close friends and suffragists.

In May, 1892, the First Unitarian Church of Rochester celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Though born a Quaker, Susan B. Anthony attended the Unitarian Church for many years. In this greeting she wrote to be read at the Celebration, Anthony declares that "One of the pleasantest memories of Rochester--my home--the past forty years--are associated with the ministers & friends who will have honorable and loving mention during the your the gatherings of these two days."

Gold stick pins and fruit knife owned by Susan B. Anthony.

Bronze Susan B. Anthony medallion sold to raise funds for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. "Failure is Impossible--Susan B. Anthony" on reverse side.

Susan B. Anthony PlaquePostcards of Susan B. Anthony's home, 17 Madison Street, Rochester, and of Anthony sitting at her desk. The Anthony House is now a National Historic Landmark and museum.

Plaster-of-Paris Susan B. Anthony plaque commissioned by her sister Mary S. Anthony.

Susan B. Anthony. "The Status of Woman, Past, Present, and Future." The Arena (May, 1897). Inscribed by Susan B. Anthony.

Susan B. Anthony to Rachel Foster Avery, May 19, 1897: "Have you read my article in the May Arena--on 'Woman's Status past, present, & future'....The Friends--even in Oakland Cal.-- write how much good it has done them--Have you read it?"
Elizabeth Cady StantonElizabeth Cady Stanton

Manuscript of a speech written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1898 for presentation at the fiftieth anniversary of the first woman's rights convention. In the speech, Stanton called for economic cooperation as the only means to bring about "equal rights for all." The speech reflects Stanton's belief that suffrage alone was too narrow, and all social, civil, religious, economic, and political institutions must be reformed to improve the condition of women.

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady StantonSusan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton on the front porch of the Anthony House, ca 1901.

From the collection of the Susan B. Anthony House

William Channing Gannett presided over the funeral of Susan B. Anthony. In this letter, written on March 16, 1906, three days after Anthony's death, he describes the event:

The services yesterday were simple, heart felt & impressive--college girls acting as "Honorary Bearers" and other girls as Guard of Honor as she lay in State in the Church while the people for three hours streamed through to look upon her face. The congregation filled [Central Church]--one of the largest in the city--to the doors & windows, while others stood outside in falling snow for the hour or two the service lasted...It does not seem like death, does it, - to move people so...

Winning the Vote in New York State

The Rochester Political Equality Club was founded by Mary S. Anthony in 1885. Shown are the minutes taken during the first meeting of 1894, which was held at the Anthony House. One of the topics discussed was the campaign to send pro-suffrage petitions to the New York State Constitutional Convention, which was scheduled to meet later that year in Albany.

From the collection of the Susan B. Anthony House

BadgesBadges worn by delegates to various conventions of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association.

Group in BuffaloThe New York State Woman Suffrage Convention meeting in Buffalo in 1902. Anna Howard Shaw, the President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, is the fourth from the left. Standing to her left is Ella Hawley Crossett of Warsaw, New York, who was elected President of the New York Woman Suffrage Association at this convention.

Vote No SignIn 1915, a referendum was held in New York State on the suffrage issue. Despite rallies, parades, speeches, and broadsides, the amendment was defeated 18,297 to 13,340 in Rochester, and by a similar margin throughout the state.

Vote Yes SignLetter written on March 23, 1914 by Carrie Chapman Catt to Emma Biddlecom Sweet. As chair of the Empire State Campaign Committee, Catt led the effort to win the vote for women in New York State in 1915. Later that year she became the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and under her leadership the nineteenth amendment was passed in 1920.

Photograph of Mary Garrett Hay, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Emma B. Sweet. Sweet, a young woman from Rochester, often helped Susan B. Anthony with her secretarial work.

Helen Kendrick Johnson. Woman and the Republic. New York, 1897.

Helen Kendrick Johnson's father, Asahel Clark Kendrick, was a member of the University of Rochester's first faculty. Johnson opposed woman suffrage because she believed that men and women belonged by nature in separate spheres. If women were engaged in politics, she argued, they would neglect their duty as moral leaders, and the Republic would soon collapse.
Rossiter Johnson. "The Blank-Cartridge Ballot." In Why Women Do Not Want the Ballot, a volume of bound pamphlets published by the New York Association Opposed to the Extension of the Suffrage to Women, ca 1897.

Helen Kendrick Johnson's husband, Rossiter Johnson, was also an anti-suffragist. An author and editor, Rossiter Johnson was born in Rochester and graduated from the University of Rochester in 1863. In this essay he asserts that a vote must be backed up with a gun and, because women do not bear arms, they should not vote.

Suffragist were a popular target of ridicule and satire. These postcards date from the mid 1910s.

From the collection of Nancy Woodhull and Tennessee Watson.