190th Anniversary Susan B. Anthony Birth

This President’s Day falls on the 190th birthday of Susan B. Anthony, born to a Quaker family on February 15, 1820 near Adams, MA. She died on March 13, 1906 at the age of 86 in Rochester, NY. The Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester was her home during the most politically active period of her life and the site of her famous arrest for voting in 1872. When she was 52 years old, Anthony was arrested, put on trial and found guilty for illegally voting in the presidential election. The judge ruled her incompetent to testify on her own behalf because of her gender and fined her $100. “If it please your honor,” she said at her sentencing, “I will never pay a dollar of this unjust penalty.” She never did. For more about the trial, see The Trial of Susan B. Anthony for Illegal Voting by Professor Douglas Linder of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law where he writes that she revealed to her close friend and fellow suffragist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton that she “the straight Republican ticket” and that she had been planning to vote long before 1872.

The Brooklyn Law School Library has two items in its collection on the famous trial. The Trial of Susan B. Anthony with an introduction by Lynn Sherr (Call #KF223.A58 A58 2003) contains the Indictment and the subsequent trial which became one of the most famous trials of the 19th century due in large part to Anthony’s clever stratagem of publishing a one-volume edition of the trial proceedings, then using it as a public relations ploy for a campaign to rally women to the cause of women’s suffrage.

The other book is The Susan B. Anthony Women’s Voting Rights Trial: a Headline Court Case by Judy Monroe (Call #KF4895.Z9 M63 2002) in which the author provides family history and background for Anthony’s interest in voting rights for women, abolitionism, and temperance along with chapters on the history of suffrage, the events leading up to Anthony’s court trial, the trial itself, and her continued fight for women’s rights up to the time of her death. It was only after her death and only 90 years ago, on August 26, 1920, that the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution became law, and women could vote in the fall elections, including in the Presidential election.

The Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams, MA. opened today for a one-week preview until it begins its full-time schedule. The museum’s panels describe Anthony’s involvement in the temperance movement, abolition, suffrage and women’s rights in the workplace. It houses items such as a small metal hammer used by prohibitionist women workers in a candy factory for smashing the windows of drinking establishments, and anti-suffrage posters like one aimed at men that says: “Once Women Get The Vote, your life is doomed.” On the pro side is a poster saying “Women bring all voters into the world. Let women vote.”

The opening of the museum was not without controversy as its Board consists of members of Feminists Choosing Life of NY (formerly Feminists for Life of NY) who bought Anthony’s birthplace and seek to insure that the pro-life part of Anthony’s views remain part of her biography. This has led to the launching of a counter website by liberal feminists. Even today, Susan B. Anthony remains a controversial figure.