Susan B. Anthony was born 191 years ago today, on February 15, 1820. She was raised in Massachusetts with few frills; as a Quaker her father did not allow his children to play with toys for fear it would distract them from their “inner light.” Despite its lack of amusements, the Quaker religion and it’s egalitarian treatment of women, helped shape Susan’s fundamental beliefs. In fact, though education was discouraged for most women, when Susan complained to her father about the quality of the education she was receiving, he chose to pull her out of public school and teach her himself. Anthony’s career as a social activist started early. When she was just a teenager she took part in the abolitionist movement, collecting signatures for petitions against slavery, and in her twenties she became the secretary for the Daughters of Temperance. In 1851 she joined forces with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, beginning a life-long friendship and collaboration working toward equal rights for women. A gifted and eloquent orator, she spent many years traveling America and Europe, attending conventions, giving speeches, and rallying support for the cause.
Unlike almost all her contemporaries, Anthony chose to never marry, saying that perhaps she would consider marriage when women were treated equally in the union, instead of like property. She truly lived by her believes, and was even arrested in 1872 for illegally voting in the U.S. presidential election. But despite her tireless efforts, Anthony did not live to see women’s suffrage become a reality. She died in 1906, just fourteen years before the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. She knew, however, that her efforts would not be in vain — shortly before she retired she foretold that the time when women would be allowed the right to vote “…will come, but I shall not see it…It is inevitable…It will not be wrought by the same disrupting forces that freed the slave, but come it will, and I believe within a generation.”
To commemorate Susan B. Anthony and her commitment to championing women’s rights Chris and I watched Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony.