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The Legacy of Susan B. Anthony and the Women Who Fought for The Right to Vote

Updated on May 27, 2012
Suffragists sacrificed to ensure women the right to vote.
Suffragists sacrificed to ensure women the right to vote.

"I do pray, and that most earnestly and constantly, for some terrific shock to startle the women of the nation into a self-respect which will compel them to see the absolute degradation of their present position; which will compel them to break their yoke of bondage and give them faith in themselves; which will make them proclaim their allegiance to women first . . . . The fact is, women are in chains, and their servitude is all the more debasing because they do not realize it. O to compel them to see and feel and to give them the courage and the conscience to speak and act for their own freedom, though they face the scorn and contempt of all the world for doing it!"

Susan B. Anthony, 1873

 

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton, Women's Suffragists
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton, Women's Suffragists

Every Able American WOMAN Should Vote

How many United States Citizens have ever failed to make it to the polls because it's inconvenient? As a mother of young children that has recently relocated to a new city, getting to the polls to vote isn't exactly easy. But how would I feel if my right to vote didn't exist? My husband's political views are not mine. They never have been. Although we have similar ideas about the problems society faces, we don't share a common view on how these problems and issues should be solved. So we have often voted differently by showing support for different political parties and different candidates. So "leaving it to the men" is not an issue for me. Do our votes cancel each other out? Not in my view. So why do we stay at home because voting is inconvenient? Isn't voting for the next president of the United States and other elected officials important enough to get a babysitter, or get up early before my husband leaves for work? Is voting important enough for me to locate my voter's registration card and make sure it is in my wallet with my driver's license?

100 years ago, Susan B. Anthony was a pioneer of the Women's Suffragist Movement, which advocated for several political causes during the late 19th century in the United States, including a woman's right as a citizen of the United States to vote. Susan B. Anthony worked in the 1860s first to end slavery and work for black Americans' civil rights and then to improve women's working conditions and health, and finally during the sunset of her life her life's work culminated with her tireless efforts to help women achieve the right for women to vote.

Susan B. Anthony was a member of the Massachusetts Society of Friends, and her political activity spanned over 50 years. She is considered the earliest supporter of the Women's Voting Movement. Over the years Anthony did much more than speak and organize. She was famously arrested for voting in the 1872 national election on the charge of "voting without having a lawful right to vote."

Anthony was brought before judge Hunt, whose verdict was purportedly decided and fixed before he reviewed the evidence. Doris Stevens, in her 1920 book about the woman's suffrage movement, Jailed for Freedom, records her version of the remarks Ms. Anthony made regarding Judge Hunt's decision. You can read the transcript of Anthony's remarks to Judge Hunt after he rendered his outrageous verdict at the Project Gutenberg website. A copy of this out of print book is available for free download there.

Suffragists fought an uphill battle because they had no power to express their political views.
Suffragists fought an uphill battle because they had no power to express their political views.

The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

2. Congress shall have power to enforce this Article by appropriate legislation.

Ratified August 26, 1920

Wyoming was the first state to grant the vote to women.
Wyoming was the first state to grant the vote to women.
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Cindy McCainHillary Rodham Clinton was in a dead heat with Sen. Barack Obama
Cindy McCain
Cindy McCain
Hillary Rodham Clinton was in a dead heat with Sen. Barack Obama
Hillary Rodham Clinton was in a dead heat with Sen. Barack Obama

What Would Susan B. Anthony Make of the 2008 Presidential Election?

In 2008, less than 100 years after women were finally granted the right to carry out their duty as citizens born in the United States, we have had two strong women candidates involved in the presidential elections. Not only are women voters going to the polls and strongly weighing in on the election results, they are prime candidates. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin have made landmark progress for women in politics.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was in a dead heat with Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. Countless supporters, both male and female gave her their impassioned support because they believed her political experience as an attorney, a first lady, and a senator made her an appropriate choice for America. Few people I heard interviewed on radio spots were casting their ballot because she was a woman.

Sarah Palin was brought to the John McCain ticket late in the election cycle. His stated reasons for nominating her as vice president include leadership as governer of Alaska where support for her government reforms is strong.

Other women hold high-ranking positions on the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, House of Representatives, the Senate, and as governors. Ann Richards of Texas and wildly popular Democratic governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano have served their country and states in impressive ways. Likewise, the wives of presidential candidates are taking more and more active public roles in the election process. Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain have played unprecedented roles in drumming up support for their political candidate husbands. Women have not only stepped forward to claim their rights of self-representation, but have also come forward as able and talented public servants and national leaders. And instead of being ridiculed as outrageous and shrill, these women are an important and respected force in politics. I think Miss Anthony would be pleased about that.

But what about the average American citizen like me, whose sole reason for not making it to the polls is inconvenience? Those of us who for one reason or other take the hard-earned right to vote for granted. I know exactly what Susan B. Anthony would think as she rolls over in her grave:

Get off your duffs and vote! 

Get off your butts and vote, America!
Get off your butts and vote, America!

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