February 15th is Susan B Anthony Day. On this day, we commemorate the birth of American social reformer Susan Brownell Anthony who played a huge role in the women’s suffrage movement. Through her friendship with another women’s right advocate, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, they promoted women’s suffrage relentlessly.
In 1869 the 15th amendment was passed stating that all citizens could vote, and specifically that black men could vote, but no mention of women’s right to vote. Testing the 15th amendment, in 1872, Anthony and 15 other women registered and voted in the 1872 presidential election in Rochester, New York. Susan went to trial and was fined (but never paid), but was not sent to jail.
In 1869, Susan and Elizabeth organized the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), which was open to all — men and women. It merged with the American Woman Suffrage Association in 1890, and became the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA) with Elizabeth as its first president. Susan was it’s president from 1892 – 1890. These organizations were all organized to promote women’s suffrage in the USA and did so sometimes militantly through parades, demonstrations, brochures and press releases, but mostly strategically trying to pressure congress into supporting suffrage by getting the states behind their goal.
“Between 1890 and 1896, Wyoming and Utah entered the Union with woman suffrage in their constitutions, and Idaho and Colorado approved it by referenda. Over the next 14 years, suffragists launched nearly 500 campaigns to get the question on other state ballots. They achieved only a handful of referenda, and won none of them” until 1910. “Between 1910 and 1912, six states gave women the vote, and more followed each year.” “In 1919, with more than 30 state legislatures petitioning Congress on behalf of women suffrage, the Nineteenth Amendment passed by a large majority, ending a 72-year struggle.”(US History)
Throughout her 60 years of service to women’s suffrage, Susan averaged between 75-100 speeches per year. She died in 1906, 14 years before the 19th Amendment was ratified — the fight having been taken up by the likes of Alice Paul, Carrie Chapman Catt and others. The 19th Amendment, known as the Susan B Anthony Amendment, finally gave all women the legal right to vote.
Although women received the right to be included in the term “citizen” along with the right to vote through the 19th Amendment, we still have a long way to go to achieve equality in many areas, including politics, pay and sexual harassment. Before we, the older generation, die off, let’s make sure the younger generation of women know what it took to get this far.
The script for Failure is Impossible, an oral history of the struggle to achieve women’s right to vote.
Synopsis of various celebrations around the country after the certification of the 19th Amendment, go to David Dismore’s Equalitarian