March 13, 2013
In 1878, Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted the text for the 19th Amendment, which gave female U.S. citizens the right to vote, Congress finally passed it in 1919, and it was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, when the Tennessee House of Representatives narrowly voted for ratification, 50-49 (the Senate had passed it earlier), on Harry T. Burn’s change of heart.
Anthony’s faith in the inevitably of her cause rarely wavered, as she said in an 1894 speech:
“We shall some day be heeded, and when we shall have our amendment to the Constitution of the United States, everybody will think it was always so, just exactly as many young people believe that all the privileges, all the freedom, all the enjoyments which woman now possesses always were hers.1 They have no idea of how every single inch of ground that she stands upon today has been gained by the hard work of some little handful of women of the past.”
She was born on Feb. 15, 1820, in Adams, Mass., and was raised in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). When the family moved to New York, the local school refused to teach the six-year-old Anthony long division, and her father pulled his precocious daughter placed her in a group home school that did not have a problem with teaching girls.
Her family was devastated by the Panic of 1837, a financial crisis that resulted in a long recession, and Anthony had to quit school. In 1839, the family moved to Hardscrabble, N.Y., and Anthony began teaching to help pay her father’s debts.
In 1849, Anthony returned to live with her folks on their farm near Rochester. She began attending the Unitarian Church and attending temperance meetings. She became secretary for the Daughters of Temperance, which forced her to take a public role in speaking out against alcohol abuse. When she read about the National Women’s Rights Conference, which held its first meeting in Worcester, Mass., in 1850, she was moved to devote her energies to the nascent women’s movement.
She met Stanton in 1851, and the two organized the first women’s state temperance society, after being refused admission to a temperance convention because of her sex. Anthony addressed the third National Women’s Rights convention in 1852, and her fame as a powerful speaker began to spread.
With the backing of business mogul George Francis Train, Anthony and Stanton founded a weekly journal “The Revolution” in January 1868, to promote women’s rights, and advocate for the women’s and black’s suffrage. Anthony, the business manager, paid good wages to the women, and refuse advertising from companies she disapproved of, like patent-medicine providers. The journal failed and Anthony had to repay $10,000 to creditors (about $180,000 today).
The two women founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869, after the 15th Amendment gave the right to vote to black men, but made no mention of women’s right to vote.
Anthony was arrested on Nov. 18, 1872, for casting a vote in the presidential election. She argued the 14th Amendment gave her the right vote, but Judge Ward Hunt directed the jury to convict. She was fined $100, which she never paid.
The trial did give Anthony a wider audience for the cause, and she carried her cause to audiences around the country.