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Susan B. Anthony

The feminist movement didn't start in the mid-1960s and early 1970s. It actually started some centuries ago with women's rights activists such as Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Dorothea Dix and the subject of this biography, Susan B. Anthony. Without her efforts and those of her allies in this movement, women wouldn't be able to vote, become political activists or even hold political office.

Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony grew up in an era where the ideals of "Republican Motherhood" and "Cult of Domesticity" reigned in antebellum American culture. With "Republican Motherhood", it was believed that in order for America to survive, it was important for women to receive a formal education solely for the purpose of teaching their children to be productive citizens, but this education was never intended for the women to fulfill their own goals.

And in the "Cult of Domesticity", this meant that a woman's primary role was in the home. Now this is not to say that no women worked outside of the home or were influential in their own right. African-American female Phillis Wheatley published a work of poetry in the 1700s. And there were numerous women who worked as nurses, teachers, in-home tutors, and caretakers. It was out of this environment that Susan B. Anthony came to prominence as an abolitionist and women's rights activist.

Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15, 1820 to Daniel and Lucy Anthony. Her father worked in cotton, was a devout Quaker who often held to abolitionist views and was actively involved in antislavery movements. Her mother, Lucy Anthony, attended the 1848 Seneca and Rochester convention on women's rights and instilled in Susan and her three sisters an independent spirit and a commitment to social justice.

To help support her family financially, Susan worked as a teacher until 1837 when her father's increasing debt caused him to sell his business and move the family to Rochester, New York. As a child, Susan was exposed to leading abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips because these men often visited their home.

It was from them that Susan B. Anthony developed a passion for ending slavery and other social causes. When she started her political activism, her first cause surprisingly wasn't women's rights. Rather, she focused heavily on the cause of temperance and she advocated for a limit on the sales of liquor. But when males in the temperance movement refused to let her speak at the state rallies, she decided to join the women's rights movement because she believed that if women could have some political influence and have voting rights, then they can change the temperance laws in America.

In 1851, she started a friendship with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and together they started the National Woman's Suffrage Association and the publication The Revolution. Susan B. Anthony traveled across America for lectures on women's rights. She passed out brochures and even appeared before Congress near the end of her life to make a case for a federal women's suffrage law.

In 1872, while voting with fellow supporters, she was arrested for voting illegally and lost her case. She was fined for her actions. Susan B. Anthony died in 1906, just fourteen years before women finally gained the right to vote in 1920. Susan B. Anthony's life and career proved that with determination, support from others and strong convictions, one person can make tremendous and groundbreaking changes in his or her society.

I'll end with some quotes from Susan B. Anthony:

"Women must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself."

"I think the girl who is able to earn her own living and pay her own way should be as happy as anybody on earth. The sense of independence and security is very sweet."

"It would be ridiculous to talk of male and female atmospheres, of male and female springs or rains, male and female sunshine…how much more ridiculous is it in relation to mind, soul, to thought, where there is undeniably no such things as sex, to tell of male and female education and male and female schools."

Susan B. Anthony is remembered today as one of the most famous women activists of recent times.

There is a secret you don't know …

Besides the factual Susan B. Anthony biography presented above there is a secret that no one knows until now. And that secret is that Susan B. Anthony coined the phrase, "Penny for your thoughts."


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