Susan B. Anthony: Famous Suffragist, Abolitionist & Rochesterian

By Evelyn Patterson

“Let’s Have Tea” Statue in Rochester

Susan B. Anthony was born in 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts, and later she and her family moved to the city of Rochester in 1845. Their Rochester house served as a meeting place for abolitionist groups, and eventually Susan B. Anthony herself became an abolitionist, a follower of the temperance movement, and most famously a supporter of women’s rights. Through her work, she became well acquainted with other notable figures such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass. 

Her Work as an Abolitionist and Suffragist

Before her work as one of the leaders of the women’s suffrage movement, Susan B. Anthony was an abolitionist, partially due to her upbringing as a Quaker. She believed in outlawing slavery, and seeing all people as equal regardless of skin color or history. Through this work, she came into contact with Frederick Douglass, one of the most recognizable figures of the anti-slavery movement, due to his excellent skills as an orator and his knack for using early photography methods to share his thoughts and ideas. Her position as an American Anti-Slavery Agent helped to expand her abilities to remain clam under pressure and be able to handle whatever was thrown at her; that being insults, objects, or metaphorical roadblocks. With the passing of the 13th amendment in 1865, which outlawed slavery in the United States, she was then able to turn more fully to her other plan of action: fighting for women’s voting rights in the suffrage movement.

Susan B. Anthony recognized that women needed to fight for their right to vote and make their voices heard, otherwise women could be stuck fighting for their equality in other ways. In 1872 she tested the newly created 14th amendment which granted equal protection under the law for any people who were naturalized or born as citizens in the United States. Shockingly, she was actually able to register to vote and cast her ballot in that year’s election, afterwards saying “I have been and gone and done it…positively voted.” However, several days later she was arrested in the front room of her house at 17 Madison Street, Rochester, New York. Her arrest and the following trials raised the question of voting rights for women in the United States. If she was a citizen, why was it a crime for her to vote? This created a debate that would last for several decades.

In 1920, 14 years after her death in 1906, the 19th amendment was ratified. It states that “the right to vote shall not be denied on account of sex.” Getting to this point was certainly not easy, and there were disagreements within the women’s suffrage movement itself as well. One of the biggest arguments was the debate on whether or not to include all women in the right to vote. At first the movement was primarily led by white women and their supporters, and there was some exclusion and discrimination when it came to African American women or other women who had immigrated from other countries. This was an interesting dynamic, especially considering Susan B. Anthony’s background as an abolitionist who promoted freedom and equality.


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