There is simply no question that the efforts, work, and convictions of Susan B. Anthony were so pivotal in the way our country works. Further, it must have been such an enormous struggle during a time when men, particularly white men, ran virtually everything in this country. If we imagine for a moment what it must have been like to live in a society where a certain sort of population, just one to be specific, ran the entirely of the rest of the society, made all the decisions, and controlled the act of justice and law within it.
The control wasn’t mere voting or societal decision-making, but over virtually every aspect of social life. Therein lied much of the problem, since the levels of corruption lept out to everyone in blatant abuse of control, from the enslavement of an entire people, and then the complete suppression of an entire gender. Then, it must have made sense to the white men in many ways, what with popularly accepted notions that everyone who was not a white man must be lesser in so many ways. In the present, when we still struggle with prejudicial issues, the notion that anyone, particularly one demographic, is smarter or better in any way just doesn’t make any sense. It is foreign to us and we congratulate those who prove the prejudging is an act of complete ignorance.
These things are why we can believe Susan B. Anthony was so far ahead of her time. Sure, the world we live in today still sees so much struggle with prejudice and value-judging against others, but most people with a moderate degree of intelligence and erudition recognize any form of prejudicial philosophy is based on ignorance and lust for (the abuse of) power alone. Anthony recognized this early in life, in part because she was raised in a home where self-discipline and confidence were valued, but also because she experienced prejudice against her gender in school. At the time, many aspects of education were not provided or even allowed by females. Anthony’s case, a point where her teacher refused to teach her long-division prompting her father to home school his children, acquired a memorable foundation recognizing a severe gap in equality. Thus, a destiny was born.
Anthony’s first act of publicly acting in the spirit of reform was within the realm of temperance, or alcohol control. Much of the problem was the corrupt abuse of power wielded by the male dominance combined with the widespread problem of alcohol abuse and then those surrounding the alcoholics. Men who abused alcohol too often abused those under their control and then rarely faced any legal opposition, mainly because the law gave less concern to those who were not in charge. She gave her first public speech in 1949 on behalf of the Daughters of Temperance, and then played a pivotal role in founding the Woman’s State Temperance Society of New York, in 1851, forming a career of fighting for changes in the recognition of equality.
In the few years before the start of the American Civil war, Anthony was also working in anti-slavery issues and actively within the American Anti-Slavery Society. In fact, at the Ninth National Women’s Rights Convention, taking place on May 12th, 1859, she asked, “Where, under our Declaration of Independence, does the Saxon man get his power to deprive all women and Negroes of their inalienable rights?”
But the powers that were would prove to be a source of trouble, even legal trouble, for Susan B. Anthony, since she was arrested for voting in the 1872 Presidential Election. This event placed so much more light on the control the white men of the time had over the law, since Anthony’s argument in court stated that the 14th Amendment gave the right to vote to ‘all persons born or naturalized into the United States’. That’s what it says, but she was tried and convicted anyway. While she did not suffer a prison sentence but a fine, the judicial system did in fact ignore its own written principles in the continuing spirit of gender inequality. She never paid that fine, swore she would never pay it and held to that promise, but the case allowed her a broader platform to continue her fight to a listening audience spanning the nation.
In 1969, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Anthony formed the National Women’s Suffrage Association, an organization dedicated to achieving women’s suffrage, or the right to vote. Eventually, this organization merged with the American Women Suffrage Association, creating the National American Women Suffrage Association, taking place in 1890. Anthony continued with the steady fight with a singular purpose in mind, which was to gain women’s right to vote. She even caught a degree of controversy and criticism from many working towards women’s rights across a broader spectrum, such as the woman’s suffering within the social spectrum along many degrees, which was because Anthony saw the pursuit of too many issues at once a distraction.
This fight continued with Anthony throughout her entire life, consuming her life time. She never married, and by the time of the formation of the National American Women Suffrage Association in 1890, she was seventy years old. She struggled with her singular purpose in life until she announced her retirement in 1900. Susan B. Anthony died on March 13th, 1906.
She traveled the nation, spoke before every congress in place from 1869 to the year of her death, and earned the respect of the entire nation in her life. She even spoke on behalf of women in an international scale, leading in The International Council of Women in Berlin.
Anthony single-minded purpose did pay off, although it did not take place during her lifetime. It wasn’t until about fourteen years later that women achieved the right to vote via the Nineteenth Amendment. But her legacy was remembered, with that Amendment to the Constitution of the United States forever known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.
Her efforts are still respected and revered in modern times, illustrated with her image appearing on an American coin, known as the Susan B. Anthony Dollar, minted in 1979, 1980, 1981, and then later in 1999. While this dollar failed to reach any significant popularity with the public, the problem was not in the memory or efforts of the woman on the coin, but the coin’s unfortunate similarity with the quarter. They were too close in size and general appearance, so the coin has been reduced to a mere collector’s item. In fact, the only real reason the coin was restruck in 1999 was because of the economic force of the vending machine business.
It was through the efforts of many people that created the level of equality within our country, but few bear the burden of being the face upon that effort. While issues of prejudice and value-judgment still have a long way to go, Susan B. Anthony stands with those such as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King as an abiding force in so many of the high values that make The United States of America such a magnificent country. Further, it is recognized that the efforts of her and those like her are so important, because this country may not be what it is today without those courageous efforts.