Anthony was born in 1820 near Adams, Massachusetts to a family of Quakers. At an early age, she was already aware of injustices witnessing her father’s refusal to purchase cotton from slave labor. As a teacher, she noticed that she was paid a fraction of her male counterparts. "Anthony’s experience with the teacher’s union, temperance and antislavery reforms, and Quaker upbringing, laid fertile ground for a career in women’s rights reform to grow." (NPS)
Anthony became lifelong friends with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, another staunch women’s rights activist. In 1848, Canton presented the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments at the Seneca Falls Convention which took place in upstate New York. This convention kicked off the women’s rights movement. Several activists were present including social reformer Lucretia Mott and Frederick Douglass escaped slave and abolitionist.
During the Civil War and the years that lead up to it, there was some strife as the suffragists were told to put their crusade aside since enslaved individuals were worse off than privileged white women. Anthony conceded that point, but reminded everyone that half the slaves were also women. This sentiment was echoed by former slave and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth. Anthony helped fugitive slaves escape and held an anti-slavery rally. She and Stanton gathered signatures to pass the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution formally abolishing slavery. In 1870, the passage of the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution caused additional rifts because it eliminated voting restrictions due to race or color, but not gender.
Despite the setback, Anthony and Stanton continued to speak out for women’s rights. Anthony "envisioned a Nation where women helped make the laws and elect the lawmakers. She envisioned a Nation that protected the rights and privileges of all Americans, regardless of skin color, sex, or any other physical characteristics." (whitehouse.gov) Anthony lived in Washington, DC, meeting regularly with Congressmen and traveling around the country giving talks. Some of the states and U.S. territories were already giving women more rights including voting, property rights, running for office, and serving on juries.
With other activists, Stanton and Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. In November 1872, Anthony and other women registered as voters. Ironically, she expected to be denied registration as this had been the case for most other women who tried. On November 5, she cast her ballot and there was no uproar. A few weeks later, she was arrested. At her trial in Canandaigua, New York on June 17, 1873, Anthony was found guilty by a jury of twelve men and fined $100. She challenged the judge to hold her in custody until she paid the fine; he never did knowing this would enable her to take her case to the Supreme Court. Anthony never paid the fine. (NPS)
Susan B. Anthony saw several improvements to the lives of women: more women were going to college, controlling their own property, getting better job opportunities, and leaving abusive husbands. After her death in 1906 in Rochester, New York, the suffragists’ momentum continued. Once New York State gave women the right to vote in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson supported a constitutional amendment. In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women’s Right to Vote passed the House and Senate. The 19th Amendment became known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.
Sources: National Park Service, Library of Congress, National Archives, The White House
Honoring Susan B. Anthony - 151 Cong. Rec. 2880
Remarks by Congress member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on February 17, 2005.
Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coin Act - 92 Stat. 1072
Public Law 95-447 was approved October 10, 1978.
Statute Compilation of Voting Rights Act of 1965 (What's a Statute Compilation?)
Joint resolution expressing the sense of Congress with respect to the women suffragists who fought for and won the right of women to vote in the United States - 119 Stat. 457
Public Law 109-49 was approved August 2, 2005.
Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation
The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation, popularly known as the Constitution Annotated, encompasses the U.S. Constitution and analysis and interpretation of the U.S. Constitution with in-text annotations of cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States.
The following are from the Constitution Annotated Centennial Edition Interim Edition: Analysis of Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of the United States to August 26, 2017, S. Doc. 112-9.
Thirteenth Amendment - Slavery and Involuntary Servitude
Fifteenth Amendment - Rights of Citizens to Vote
Nineteenth Amendment - Women's Suffrage Rights
Black and white abolitionists in the first half of the nineteenth century waged a biracial assault against slavery. Their efforts proved to be extremely effective. Abolitionists focused attention on slavery and made it difficult to ignore. They heightened the rift that had threatened to destroy the unity of the nation even as early as the Constitutional Convention.
Although some Quakers were slaveholders, members of that religious group were among the earliest to protest the African slave trade, the perpetual bondage of its captives, and the practice of separating enslaved family members by sale to different masters.
As the nineteenth century progressed, many abolitionists united to form numerous antislavery societies. These groups sent petitions with thousands of signatures to Congress, held abolition meetings and conferences, boycotted products made with slave labor, printed mountains of literature, and gave innumerable speeches for their cause. Individual abolitionists sometimes advocated violent means for bringing slavery to an end.
Although black and white abolitionists often worked together, by the 1840s they differed in philosophy and method. While many white abolitionists focused only on slavery, black Americans tended to couple anti-slavery activities with demands for racial equality and justice.
In this plea for the abolition of the slave trade, Anthony Benezet, a Quaker of French Huguenot descent, pointed out that if buyers did not demand slaves, the supply would end. “Without purchasers,” he argued, “there would be no trade; and consequently every purchaser as he encourages the trade, becomes partaker in the guilt of it.” He contended that guilt existed on both sides of the Atlantic. There are Africans, he alleged, “who will sell their own children, kindred, or neighbors.” Benezet also used the biblical maxim, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” to justify ending slavery. Insisting that emancipation alone would not solve the problems of people of color, Benezet opened schools to prepare them for more productive lives.
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Abolitionist and women's rights advocate Sojourner Truth was enslaved in New York until she was an adult. Born Isabella Baumfree around the turn of the nineteenth century, her first language was Dutch. Owned by a series of masters, she was freed in 1827 by the New York Gradual Abolition Act and worked as a domestic. In 1843 she believed that she was called by God to travel around the nation—sojourn—and preach the truth of his word. Thus, she believed God gave her the name, Sojourner Truth. One of the ways that she supported her work was selling these calling cards.
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Abolitionists understood the power of pictorial representations in drawing support for the cause of emancipation. As white and black women became more active in the 1830s as lecturers, petitioners, and meeting organizers, variations of this female supplicant motif, appealing for interracial sisterhood, appeared in newspapers, broadsides, and handicraft goods sold at fund-raising fairs.
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The quote below, echoing Patrick Henry, is from this biography of underground railroad conductor Harriet Tubman:
After making her own escape, Tubman returned to the South nineteen times to bring over three hundred fugitives to safety, including her own aged parents.
In a handwritten note on the title page of this book, Susan B. Anthony, who was an abolitionist as well as a suffragist, referred to Tubman as a “most wonderful woman.”
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In 1833, sixty abolitionist leaders from ten states met in Philadelphia to create a national organization to bring about immediate emancipation of all slaves. The American Anti-slavery Society elected officers and adopted a constitution and declaration. Drafted by William Lloyd Garrison, the declaration pledged its members to work for emancipation through non-violent actions of “moral suasion,” or “the overthrow of prejudice by the power of love.” The society encouraged public lectures, publications, civil disobedience, and the boycott of cotton and other slave-manufactured products.
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White abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, born in 1805, had a particular fondness for poetry, which he believed to be “naturally and instinctively on the side of liberty.” He used verse as a vehicle for enhancing anti-slavery sentiment. Garrison collected his work in Sonnets and Other Poems (1843).
During the 1840s, abolitionist societies used song to stir up enthusiasm at their meetings. To make songs easier to learn, new words were set to familiar tunes. This song by William Lloyd Garrison has six stanzas set to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne.”
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Popularizing Anti-Slavery Sentiment
Massachusetts sea captain Jonathan Walker, born in 1790, was apprehended off the coast of Florida for attempting to carry slaves who were members of his church denomination to freedom in the Bahamas in 1844. He was jailed for more than a year and branded with the letters “S.S.” for slave stealer. The abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier immortalized Walker's deed in this often reprinted verse: “Then lift that manly right hand, bold ploughman of the wave! Its branded palm shall prophesy, ‘Salvation to the Slave!’”
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George W. Clark's, The Liberty Minstrel, is an exception among songsters in having music as well as words. “Minstrel” in the title has its earlier meaning of “wandering singer.” Clark, a white musician, wrote some of the music himself; most of it, however, consists of well-known melodies to which anti-slavery words have been written. The book is open to a page containing lyrics to the tune of “Near the Lake,” which appeared earlier in this exhibit (section 1, item 22) as “Long Time Ago.” Note that there is an anti-slavery poem on the right-hand page. Like many songsters, The Liberty Minstrel contains an occasional poem.
George W. Clark. The Liberty Minstrel. New York: Leavitt & Alden [et al.], 1844. General Collections, Library of Congress (3–17)
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Music was one of the most powerful weapons of the abolitionists. In 1848, William Wells Brown, abolitionist and former slave, published The Anti-Slavery Harp, “a collection of songs for anti-slavery meetings,” which contains songs and occasional poems. The Anti-Slavery Harp is in the format of a “songster”—giving the lyrics and indicating the tunes to which they are to be sung, but with no music. The book is open to the pages containing lyrics to the tune of the “Marseillaise,” the French national anthem, which to 19th-century Americans symbolized the determination to bring about freedom, by force if necessary.
The Anti-Slavery Harp: A Collection of Songs for Anti-slavery Meetings. Compiled by William Wells Brown. Boston: Bela Marsh, 1848. Music Division, Library of Congress (3–16)
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Fugitive Slave Law
In the wake of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which forced Northern law enforcement officers to aid in the recapture of runaways, more than ten thousand fugitive slaves swelled the flood of those fleeing to Canada. The Colonial Church and School Society established mission schools in western Canada, particularly for children of fugitive slaves but open to all. The school's Mistress Williams notes that their success proves the “feasibility of educating together white and colored children.” While primarily focusing on spiritual and secular educational operations, the report reproduces letters of thanks for food, clothing, shoes, and books sent from England. This early photograph accompanied one such letter to the children of St. Matthew's School, Bristol.
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This is a portrait of fugitive slave Anthony Burns, whose arrest and trial in Boston under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 incited riots and protests by white and black abolitionists and citizens of Boston in the spring of 1854. The portrait is surrounded by scenes from his life, including his sale on the auction block, escape from Richmond, Virginia, capture and imprisonment in Boston, and his return to a vessel to transport him to the South. Within a year after his capture, abolitionists were able to raise enough money to purchase Burns's freedom.
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The growing sectionalism that was dividing the nation during the late antebellum years is documented graphically with this political map of the United States, published in 1856. Designed to portray and compare the areas of free and slave states, it also includes tables of statistics for each of the states from the 1850 census, the results of the 1852 presidential election, congressional representation by state, and the number of slaves held by owners. The map is also embellished with portraits of John C. Fremont and William L. Dayton, the 1856 presidential and vice presidential candidates of the newly organized Republican Party, which advocated an anti-slavery platform.
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Although the Southern states were known collectively as the “slave states” by the end of the Antebellum Period, this map provides statistical evidence to demonstrate that slaves were not evenly distributed throughout each state or the region as a whole. Using data from the 1860 census, the map shows, by county, the percentage of slave population to the whole population. Tables also list population and area for both Southern and Northern states, while an inset map shows the extent of cotton, rice, and sugar cultivation. Another version of this map was published with Daniel Lord's The Effect of Secession upon the Commercial Relations between the North and South, and upon Each Section (New York, 1861), a series of articles reprinted from The New York Times.
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More than twenty years after the militant abolitionist John Brown had consecrated his life to the destruction of slavery, his crusade ended in October 1859 with his ill-fated attempt to seize the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in western Virginia. He hoped to take the weapons from the arsenal and arm the slaves, who would then overthrow their masters and establish a free state for themselves.
Convicted of treason and sentenced to death, Brown maintained to the end that he intended only to free the slaves, not to incite insurrection. His zeal, courage, and willingness to die for the slaves made him a martyr and a bellwether of the violence soon to consume the country during the Civil War.
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The friendship of Frederick Douglass and John Brown began in 1848, when Douglass visited Brown's home in Springfield, Massachusetts. Brown confided to Douglass his ambitious scheme to free the slaves. Over the next eleven years, Brown sought Douglass's counsel and support.
In August 1859 Brown made a final plea to Douglass to join the raid on Harpers Ferry. Douglass refused. After Brown's capture, federal marshals issued a warrant for Douglass's arrest as an accomplice. Douglass fled abroad. When he returned five months later to mourn the death of his youngest daughter Annie, he had been exonerated. Douglass wrote this lecture as a tribute to “a hero and martyr in the cause of liberty.”
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“The Book That Made This Great War”
Harriet Beecher Stowe is best remembered as the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, her first novel, published as a serial in 1851 and then in book form in 1852. This book infuriated Southerners. It focused on the cruelties of slavery—particularly the separation of family members—and brought instant acclaim to Stowe. After its publication, Stowe traveled throughout the United States and Europe speaking against slavery. She reported that upon meeting President Lincoln, he remarked, “So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”
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