In March, I published a piece on Susan B. Anthony, and while researching some parts of her life and deciding what to include in my post, I came across an in-depth interview that she gave to Nellie Bly, culturing best known for her Jules Verne-esque trip around the world in less than eighty days (72 in point of fact). I bookmarked it for a later post and finding out Nellie Bly’s birthday and then planning this week after that to focus on her work.
I think I was kind of taken with the idea that these two great, pioneering women not only lived in the same era, but crossed paths in such a way to make an impact one hundred twenty years later. This conversation is the exemplification of a study of women’s history. In a lot of ways, I can envision myself following in their footsteps through suffrage, journalism (writing), traveling, and it’s amazing. I don’t think I take voting for granted, but I absolutely feel it’s everyone’s right, but also obligation to vote in every election, not just the big ones. They’re all big ones. Nellie Bly sending in that first letter to the editor is just the essence of confidence that I aspire to. When asked, I still respond with a question mark after ‘I’m a writer’. I didn’t feel it at the time I was traveling, but in retrospect I do feel the Nellie Bly adventure vibe in my solo trip to Wales. In the moment, it was an adventure, but it was also scary, and in reading about her trip around the world, I don’t get the scared feeling from her. I will actually begin her own writing of her trip, and I hope to share my thoughts with you towards the end of the week.
In the meantime, these links will take you back to the late nineteenth century and you can fill yourself with our ancestors and inspirations.
Easier to read in The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: Volume IV: An Awful Hush 1895-1906, edited by Ann B. Gordon (Nellie Bly interviews Susan B. Anthony)
One hundred ninety-nine years ago today, Susan B. Anthony was born into a Quaker family in Adams, Massachusetts. Her activism began early at her family’s hearth as the entire clan was involved in the anti-slavery movement as well as temperance movements all throughout their lives.
Her birth year of 1820 was coincidentally one hundred years before the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was ratified.
In 1868, she, and her longtime close friend and women’s rights collaborator Elizabeth Cady Stanton published a weekly newspaper called The Revolution, focusing on women’s rights and calling for women’s suffrage as well as highlighting other opinion and discussion pieces in relation to suffrage as well as politics and finance. It’s motto was: “Men, their rights and nothing more: women, their rights and nothing less.”
I think we’re seeing a resurgence of this attitude if not the outright message. Coming to a head in 2017 with the #metoo movement, women are finding their voices and speaking out when they feel ignored or condescended to, which happens in all walks of personal and professional life.
When the 15th Amendment was proposed and ratified (giving former male slaves the right to vote), Anthony was firmly against it, feeling that African Americans and women should receive voting rights simultaneously rather than continue to give men, regardless of race more rights than women.
In 1872, she brought her Declaration of Rights for Women to the nation’s centennial in Philadelphia, wanting to share it at the official celebrations. Permission was denied, but Susan B. Anthony, leading a group of five women interrupted the speaker and handed the Declaration to the him. Leaving, she handed out copies to the crowd, and then found a public space nearby and read it to the crowd that had formed around her.
1872 was also the year in which Susan B. Anthony cast her vote. In doing so, she was arrested and brought to trial. Prior to the trial, she went around the county doing speaking engagements. Her speech was titled, “Is it a crime for a US citizen to vote?” At her trial, she was found guilty and ordered to pay a fine. She refused. Instead of the judge holding her in contempt, he declined any further action, and the fine has never been paid.
“‘Failure is impossible’ quickly became the watchword for the women’s movement” according to her Wikipedia article. Those three words were taken from comments made by Susan B. Anthony at her eighty-sixth birthday celebration a few weeks before her death:
“There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause — I wish I could name every one — but with such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible!”
She and Stanton were the first to lead the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the organization’s name was changed to the League of Women Voters, still a formidable voice for voting rights.
In addition to her house in Rochester, NY named as an historic landmark and her gravesite visited on many Election Days, most especially in 2016 when Democrat Hillary Clinton ran as the first woman nominated by a major party, she was also commemorated on a US postal stamp in 1936 and is the first woman to have her likeness on a US coin when her image was depicted on the dollar coin, first minted and released in 1979.
In reading the title of her speech: Is it a crime for a US citizen to vote? it made me realize that as far as we’ve come, we still haven’t come all that far. We saw in 2016, an amount of voter suppression that many didn’t recognize in prior years. Some of it was so obvious as to be racist and sexist that it boggles my mind that it was allowed by officials and ignored by the media. The questions asked of Secretary Clinton, and the ridiculously higher expectations and almost impossible to meet standards expected of her in relation to her male opponents was embarrassing.
Even more embarrassing is the way the media is currently treating the four women candidates for the Democratic nomination. I hear about Sherrod Brown’s ties to working class families, and reflection on Joe Biden’s status as elder statesman, and they haven’t even decided if they are running for 2020. However, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobucher are being lambasted for listening to rap music, eating fried chicken, mocked for family lore, and treatment of her subordinates instead of where they stand on the issues. Is the idea that Amy Klobucher expects her staff to live up to her expectations more problematic than a President who lies constantly about everything, even the insignificant? Bill Clinton played the saxophone on television, Mitt Romney has a car elevator in one of his houses, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is in jail for sexual misconduct, but no, let’s find out if Amy raises her voice trying to get things done. Journalism is in a tailspin, and I thought we were, if not past this sexism then at least pretending to be fair in public.
Also standing out significantly is the Georgia governor’s race in 2018, the Voter ID laws that disproportionately affected the Native American population in North Dakota, also in 2018, closing polling places, shortening voting times, which thereby increased lines and eliminated the working class who can’t afford to leave work early or go in late. Deciding that polling places didn’t meet accessibility requirements for the general election even though there were no problems during the primaries, and those polling places that didn’t meet the requirements were in primarily African-American districts (in Georgia, where the Secretary of State who is in charge of those things was also running for governor. He won. Big surprise there.) There is still a congressional seat in North Carolina that has not been certified because of blatant fraud.
So, how do we combat this?
Should Election Day be a national holiday so more people can vote without losing time and money from work? Why do certain segments of political partisanship want less people to vote, not more despite their being eligible and wanting to vote?
Should we have a standard set of questions to address to each office-seeker when they’re being introduced as a presidential candidate?
Why do we continue to allow the Senate Majority Leader to lie about what the American people want (as shown in poll after poll), and allow him to not bring bills to the floor that have passed the House?
Why do we allow the White House and the President’s enablers in Congress to block investigations into the Russian interference in the 2016 and 2018 elections? I would hope that no one wants a foreign power controlling our votes and who is elected to our national offices, but it seems that some of those politicians blocking access and investigatory avenues are dominated by their monetary reliance on that same foreign power. This is wrong. When will they come to their senses? When will their patriotism extend to real American sovereignty and equal rights instead of their false flag patriotism?
How do we also encourage voting participation?
Why do some from one side think it should be harder to vote, whether because of economics or transportation or accessibility?
This needs to be addressed before the 2020 election. 2020 will celebrate the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. We should come together for a comprehensive overhaul of the registration and voting process to make it accessible to all eligible voters. If we wait much longer, we won’t have anything worth voting for.