Susan B. Anthony Day 2017: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
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Susan B. Anthony Day 2017: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Susan B. Anthony, Susan B. Anthony photo, Susan B. Anthony Day

Susan B. Anthony. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

February 15, 2017 is Susan B. Anthony Day, marking the 197th anniversary of the women’s rights activist’s birth. She was born in Adams, Massachusetts on February 15, 1820 and died in Rochester, New York at age 86 on March 13, 1906. Fourteen years after her death, the Nineteenth Amendment finally granted women the right to vote.

Anthony fought for other causes, including abolitionism and supported the Temperance Movement against the use of alcohol. She also worked closely with another women’s rights icon, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was the primary author behind the Declaration of Sentiments that was signed at the famous 1848 Seneca Falls Convention.

Here’s a look at Anthony’s life and how she has been honored.


1. There’s Debate on Whether or Not Susan B. Anthony Was Really Against Abortion

As the Washington Post reported in January, the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams, Massachusetts did not march in the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017. That’s because she would not have agreed with Pro-Choice supporters. The group Feminists For Life often says Anthony was anti-abortion.

However, there is a dispute over whether or not Anthony would really be against the modern abortion. In 2006, Women’s eNews reported that there is a disagreement among scholars on Anthony’s position.

“She never voiced an opinion about the sanctity of fetal life,” Ann Gordon, the editor of the Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, told Women’s eNews in 2006. “And she never voiced an opinion about using the power of the state to require that pregnancies be brought to term.”

Mary Krane Derr, the co-editor of Prolife Feminism: Yesterday and Today, told the site that there is evidence Anthony was Pro-Life. She cites an 1896 article in Anthony’s The Revolution newspaper called “the horrible crime of child-murder.” However, this is only signed with the initial “A.”

“There are many, many references in The Revolution and other early feminist literature to abortion as ‘child-murder’ or ‘ante-natal infanticide’, ‘destroying the life of the unborn child,’ or some similar term,” Lynn Sherr, the author of Failure is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words, told Women’s eNews. “If an abortion killed both woman and fetus, it was spoken of as a taking of two lives instead of one.”


2. She Was the First Real Woman to Appear on U.S. Currency

Although female personifications of Liberty had appeared on U.S. currency before, in 1979, Anthony became the first real woman to appear on a coin. She was on a dollar coin that was produced from 1979 to 1981, and again in 1999. However, like all alternatives to the $1 bill, it failed to gain widespread use. One issue was the coin’s similarity in size to the widely used quarter.

Still, the coin’s very existence was a milestone. Frank Gasparro, who died in 2001 at age 92, designed the coin. According to the Susan B. Anthony House, the U.S. Mint produced 888,842,452. In 1999, another 41,368,000 coins were produced, with changes made to make it more easily distinguishable from a quarter.

Gasparro’s original design didn’t go over well with the Anthony family. According to the Los Angeles Times, her grandniece complained that it made her look too old and feminist groups complained that his design for a younger Anthony was “too pretty.” His final design was a middle-aged Anthony, based on his own interpretation of what she would look like.

“He got a little bad press from the fact he designed the Susan B. Anthony dollar,” Ed Rochette, then-executive director of the American Numismatic Association, told the LA Times in 2001. “But that wasn’t his fault. The design didn’t have anything to do with the lack of circulation. The reason that coin didn’t circulate is we didn’t withdraw the dollar bill. And people hate change.”


3. Anthony Started Fighting Against Slavery When She Was 16 Years Old

Anthony, whose father was an abolitionist, started fighting against slavery when she was only 16 years old. During the Civil War, she helped out on the Underground Railroad, working with Harriet Tubman. In 1856, she became an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society and held meetings throughout New York. Anthony’s brothers , Daniel and Merritt, were also anti-slavery activists in Kansas.

She also hoped to see a day when schools would be integrated. In an 1861 speech, she said, “Let us open to the colored man all our schools … Let us admit him into all our mechanic shops, stores, offices, and lucrative business avocations … let him rent such pew in the church, and occupy such seat in the theatre … Extend to him all the rights of Citizenship.”

In 1863, she worked with Stanton to organize the Women’s National Loyal League, which supported the Thirteenth Amendment to outlaw slavery. However, they were sad to learn that the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments did not grant women the right to vote, so she continued to push for women’s rights.


4. Anthony Thought the Best Way to Help the Temperance Movement Was to Get Women the Right to Vote

There are three main waves of the Temperance Movement, in which Americans tried to rid the country of alcohol. Anthony was part of the second wave that lasted from 1872 to 1893. Women’s rights groups across the country joined the push to get rid of alcohol because of the connection between domestic violence and drinking.

Anthony believed that the only way the Temperance Movement could succeed would be if women were granted the right to vote. After the Civil War ended, women’s suffrage became her primary focus.

“I want every single woman of every single organization of the Old World and the New that has thus reported, and that does feel that enfranchisement, that political equality is the underlying need to carry forward all the great enterprises of the world,” Anthony said in an 1893 speech.

In another 1893 speech, Anthony said it was exciting to see the religious press start to back her suffrage movement since they were so critical of her in the beginning.

“When we started out on that the whole religious world was turned upside down with fright,” she said. “We women were disobeying St. Paul; we women were getting out of sphere and would be no good anywhere, here or hereafter; and the way that I was scarified! I don’t know, somehow or other the press both secular and religious, always took special pride in scarifying Miss Anthony. I used to tell them it was because I hadn’t a husband or a son who would shoot the men down who abused me. Well, now they take special pains to praise.”

Another wave of temperance began in 1893 and culminated in the successful passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, which made all sale of alcohol illegal in the U.S. Ultimately, the amendment was repealed 13 years later with the Twenty-First Amendment.


5. Anthony Was Fined $100 For Trying to Vote in the 1872 Presidential Election

In 1872, Anthony famously tired to vote in the 1872 presidential election. Anthony voted in the election, but was fined $100. She never paid the fine, notes the Federal Judicial Center. She said she would “never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.”

This was part of a plan to gain women’s suffrage through the courts, but it was clearly not working out. In 1875, the Supreme Court refused to give women the right to vote in a unanimous decision. From that point on, the movement realized that they had to protest to gain support for a Constitutional Amendment through Congress.

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