SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – The Springfield UU will hold “A Celebration of Susan B. Anthony’s Birthday!” with Rev. Dr. Mellen Kennedy Sunday, Feb. 10. The 10 a.m. service will be followed by a Souper Sunday lunch with birthday cake and a small group discussion.
Susan B. Anthony, born on Feb. 15, 1829, grew up in a Quaker family. She became involved in the temperance movement, considered to be a progressive cause at the time. As a woman, she was often told that she couldn’t do certain things for the movement because of her sex. This experience led her to become a proponent of women’s rights, including the right to vote.
Anthony is one of the most well known of the “First Wave” feminists in the U.S. Others included Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, Ida B. Wells (founding member of NAACP), and Lucy Stone.
Due in part to her Quaker upbringing, Anthony was also a fierce opponent of slavery. According to HistoryNet, in 1856 she became an agent for the American Anti-Slavery society, where her duties included “organizing meetings, speeches, putting up posters, distributing leaflets, and encountering sometimes violent opposition. She dealt with angry mobs and armed threats; objects were thrown at her, she was hung in effigy, and her image was dragged through the streets. She and Stanton also increasingly tied female suffrage and black suffrage together, forming the Woman’s National Loyal League in 1863 to support the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery and campaigning for full citizenship for blacks and women.”
Anthony and Stanton went on to campaign for full citizenship for women and people of any race, including the right to vote, in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. They were bitterly disappointed and disillusioned when women were excluded.
Anthony continued to campaign for equal rights for all American citizens, including those who had been enslaved, in her newspaper The Revolution, which she began publishing in Rochester in 1868. Anthony attacked lynching and racial prejudice in the Rochester newspapers in the 1890s.
Susan B. Anthony had a long record of fighting against slavery and for full citizenship for freed slaves and other Negroes – a radical idea at a time when even most abolitionists wanted them sent back to Africa, whether they wanted to go there or not. Nonetheless she is on record as having made some disparaging comments about black people, in the context of putting women’s suffrage first. One can understand her frustration, yet we do not condone those remarks, which are considered racist today. The need for intersectionality, although it was not called that then, is hardly a new concern.
Frustrated that women had still not gotten the legal right to vote, Anthony illegally participated in the 1872 presidential election. She was arrested and fined $100; a fine she refused to pay because she felt it was a right for women to vote rather than a crime. She never did pay it.
In a speech not long before she died in 1906, she uttered one of her most famous lines, “failure is impossible.” Sadly she did not live to see suffrage with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, but largely due to her determined and extensive efforts, her dream lived on and finally did become possible.
Anthony and Cady Stanton, are two of the most inspiring resisters in our nation’s history. Let’s gather to remember, learn about and from these legendary women, and glean from their lives lessons for leaping into the world we need now. Come dressed as a suffragette or ally!
The service is held at the Meetinghouse at 21 Fairground Rd., Springfield, Vt. All are welcome.