Susan B Anthony
On the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution that gave American women the right to vote, President Donald Trump announced he would pardon Susan B Anthony, a pioneering feminist leader who had been arrested and fined $100 in 1872 for voting and defying laws that only allowed men to cast a ballot.
Who was Susan B Anthony?
- A lifelong advocate of women’s rights, Anthony is considered among the leading suffragists of the late 19th century. Her efforts ultimately led to the passing of the 19th Constitutional Amendment in 1920 — which some also refer to as the Susan B Anthony Amendment.
- Born in 1820 into a family that believed in the Quaker tradition of Christianity, Anthony was also a committed abolitionist, and began working for the anti-slavery cause at the age of 17.
- During the mid-19th century, the struggle for women’s rights had a strong connection with the movement to abolish slavery. In its initial years as a nation, the United States had primarily extended the right to vote to men who fulfilled property ownership criteria.
- Racial bars and the institution of slavery in many parts of the country stopped most non-White men from voting, and women were almost entirely disenfranchised.
Why was Susan B Anthony arrested?
- After the American Civil War (1861–65), the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution was passed in 1868 to grant citizenship to all persons born or naturalised in the country, thus dramatically increasing the number of persons who could enjoy rights such as voting.
- Since men from hitherto disenfranchised communities (such as the Black community) could now vote, women’s suffragists believed the amendment also extended to women. However, the feminists felt betrayed as most states continued to prohibit women from voting.
- It was at this time that Anthony, already a towering figure in the suffragist movement, decided to cast her vote in the presidential election of 1872 at Rochester in New York state, defying laws that only permitted men to vote. After she voted, Anthony was arrested and convicted; the judge serving a verdict that had been written even before the trial had started. Anthony refused to pay the $100 fine levied upon her, and authorities chose not to pursue the matter further.
- An indefatigable activist, Anthony continued to campaign for women’s suffrage across the US, and individual states increasingly began to recognise these rights. Anthony died in 1906, 14 years before the 19th Amendment was passed.
- In 1979, Anthony became the first woman to be depicted on a US Dollar coin.