Susan B. Anthony - Rebel, Crusader, Humanitarian
by Alma Lutz
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Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the copyright on this publication was renewed.

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Alma Lutz was born and brought up in North Dakota, graduated from the Emma Willard School and Vassar College, and attended the Boston University School of Business Administration. She has written numerous articles and pamphlets and for many years has been a contributor to The Christian Science Monitor. Active in organizations working for the political, civil, and economic rights of women, she has also been interested in preserving the records of women's role in history and serves on the Advisory Board of the Radcliffe Women's Archives. Miss Lutz is the author of Emma Willard, Daughter of Democracy (1929), Created Equal, A Biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1940), Challenging Years, The Memoirs of Harriot Stanton Blatch, with Harriot Stanton Blatch (1940), and the editor of With Love Jane, Letters from American Women on the War Fronts (1945).

(C) 1959 by Alma Lutz Member of the Authors League of America

Published by arrangement with Beacon Press All rights reserved.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Lutz, Alma. Susan B. Anthony: rebel, crusader, humanitarian.

Reprint of the ed. published by Beacon Press, Boston. Bibliography: p. Includes index. 1. Anthony, Susan Brownell, 1820-1906. [JK1899.A6L8 1975] 324'.3'0924 [B] 75-37764 ISBN 0-89201-017-7

Printed in the United States of America

To the young women of today


To strive for liberty and for a democratic way of life has always been a noble tradition of our country. Susan B. Anthony followed this tradition. Convinced that the principle of equal rights for all, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, must be expressed in the laws of a true republic, she devoted her life to the establishment of this ideal.

Because she recognized in Negro slavery and in the legal bondage of women flagrant violations of this principle, she became an active, courageous, effective antislavery crusader and a champion of civil and political rights for women. She saw women's struggle for freedom from legal restrictions as an important phase in the development of American democracy. To her this struggle was never a battle of the sexes, but a battle such as any freedom-loving people would wage for civil and political rights.

While her goals for women were only partially realized in her lifetime, she prepared the soil for the acceptance not only of her long-hoped-for federal woman suffrage amendment but for a worldwide recognition of human rights, now expressed in the United Nations Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights. She looked forward to the time when throughout the world there would be no discrimination because of race, color, religion, or sex.


"The letters of a person ...," said Thomas Jefferson, "form the only full and genuine journal of his life." Susan B. Anthony's letters, hundreds of them, preserved in libraries and private collections, and her diaries have been the basis of this biography, and I acknowledge my indebtedness to the following libraries and their helpful librarians: the American Antiquarian Society; the Bancroft Library of the University of California; the Boston Public Library; the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery; the Indiana State Library; the Kansas Historical Society; the Library of Congress; the Susan B. Anthony Memorial Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library, which has been transferred to the Henry E. Huntington Library; the New York Public Library; the New York State Library; the Ohio State Library; the Radcliffe Women's Archives; the Seneca Falls Historical Society; the Smith College Library; the Susan B. Anthony Memorial Inc., Rochester, New York; the University of Rochester Library; the University of Kentucky Library; and the Vassar College Library.

I am particularly indebted to Lucy E. Anthony, who asked me to write a biography of her aunt, lent me her aunt's diaries, and was most generous with her records and personal recollections. To her and to her sister, Mrs. Ann Anthony Bacon, I am very grateful for photographs and for permission to quote from Susan B. Anthony's diaries and from her letters and manuscripts.

Ida Husted Harper's Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, written in collaboration with Susan B. Anthony, and the History of Woman Suffrage, compiled by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper, have been invaluable. As many of the letters and documents used in the preparation of these books were destroyed, they have preserved an important record of the work of Susan B. Anthony and of the woman's rights movement.

I am especially grateful to Martha Taylor Howard for her unfailing interest and for the use of the valuable Susan B. Anthony Memorial Collection which she initiated and developed in Rochester, New York; and to Una R. Winter for her interest and for the use of her Susan B. Anthony Collection, most of which is now in the Henry E. Huntington Library.

I thank Edna M. Stantial for permission to examine and quote from the Blackwell Papers; Anna Dann Mason for permission to read her reminiscences and the many letters written to her by Susan B. Anthony; Ellen Garrison for permission to quote from letters of Lucretia Mott and Martha C. Wright; Eleanor W. Thompson for copies of Susan B. Anthony's letters to Amelia Bloomer; Henry R. Selden II whose grandfather was Susan B. Anthony's lawyer during her trial for voting; Judge John Van Voorhis whose grandfather was associated with Judge Selden in Miss Anthony's defense; William B. Brown for information about the early history of Adams, Massachusetts, the Susan B. Anthony birthplace, and the Friends Meeting House in Adams; Dr. James Harvey Young for information about Anna E. Dickinson; Margaret Lutz Fogg for help in connection with the trial of Susan B. Anthony; Dr. Blake McKelvey, City Historian of Rochester; Clara Sayre Selden and Wheeler Chapin Case of the Rochester Historical Society; the grand-nieces of Susan B. Anthony, Marion and Florence Mosher; Matilda Joslyn Gage II; Florence L. C. Kitchelt; and Rose Arnold Powell.

I thank The Christian Science Monitor for permission to use portions of an article published on October 24, 1958.

I am especially grateful to A. Marguerite Smith for her constructive criticism of the manuscript and her unfailing encouragement.


Highmeadow Berlin, New York
































Susan B. Anthony at the age of thirty-five Frontispiece (From a daguerrotype, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y.)

Daniel Anthony, father of Susan B. Anthony 2 (From The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony by Ida Husted Harper)

Lucy Read Anthony, mother of Susan B. Anthony 3 (From The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony by Ida Husted Harper)

Susan B. Anthony Homestead, Adams, Massachusetts 5 (The Smith Studio, Adams, Massachusetts)

Frederick Douglass 22

Elizabeth Cady Stanton in her "Bloomer costume" 27 (From The Lily)

Lucy Stone 29 (From Lucy Stone by Alice Stone Blackwell. Courtesy Little, Brown and Company)

Susan B. Anthony at the age of thirty-four 31 (Courtesy Susan B. Anthony Memorial, Inc., Rochester, New York)

James and Lucretia Mott 33 (From James and Lucretia Mott by Anna D. Hallowell. Courtesy Houghton Mifflin Company)

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her son, Henry 40

Ernestine Rose 42 (From History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage)

Parker Pillsbury 49 (From William Lloyd Garrison by His Children)

Merritt Anthony 57 (Courtesy Mrs. Ann Anthony Bacon)

Susan B. Anthony, 1856 68 (Courtesy Mrs. Ann Anthony Bacon)

Lucy Stone and her daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell 72 (Courtesy Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, California)

William Lloyd Garrison 86 (From William Lloyd Garrison and His Times by Oliver Johnson)

Susan B. Anthony 97

Daniel Anthony, brother of Susan B. Anthony 110 (Courtesy Mrs. Ann Anthony Bacon)

Wendell Phillips 114 (From William Lloyd Garrison by His Children)

George Francis Train 132 (Courtesy New York Public Library)

Anna E. Dickinson 144 (From History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage)

Paulina Wright Davis 165

Isabella Beecher Hooker 167

Victoria C. Woodhull 181

Susan B. Anthony, 1871 187 (Courtesy Mrs. Ann Anthony Bacon)

Judge Henry R. Selden 203 (Courtesy Henry R. Selden II)

"The Woman Who Dared" 206 (New York Daily Graphic, June 5, 1873)

Aaron A. Sargent 229 (Courtesy Library of Congress)

Clara Bewick Colby 232 (From History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage)

Matilda Joslyn Gage 236 (From History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage)

Anna Howard Shaw 248 (From a photograph by Mary Carnel)

Harriot Stanton Blatch 250 (Courtesy Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, California)

The Anthony home, Rochester, New York 255 (Courtesy Susan B. Anthony Memorial, Inc., Rochester, New York)

Susan B. Anthony at her desk 257 (Courtesy Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts)

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton 259

Elizabeth Smith Miller, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 262 and Susan B. Anthony

Ida Husted Harper 271 (Courtesy Library of Congress)

Rachel Foster Avery 275 (Courtesy Library of Congress)

Harriet Taylor Upton 276 (Courtesy Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, California)

Carrie Chapman Catt 289 (Courtesy Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts)

Quotation in the handwriting of Susan B. Anthony 297

Susan B. Anthony at the age of eighty-five 301 (From a photograph by J. E. Hale)

Susan B. Anthony, 1905 309 (From a photograph by Ellis)


"If Sally Ann knows more about weaving than Elijah," reasoned eleven-year-old Susan with her father, "then why don't you make her overseer?"

"It would never do," replied Daniel Anthony as a matter of course. "It would never do to have a woman overseer in the mill."

This answer did not satisfy Susan and she often thought about it. To enter the mill, to stand quietly and look about, was the best kind of entertainment, for she was fascinated by the whir of the looms, by the nimble fingers of the weavers, and by the general air of efficiency. Admiringly she watched Sally Ann Hyatt, the tall capable weaver from Vermont. When the yarn on the beam was tangled or there was something wrong with the machinery, Elijah, the overseer, always called out to Sally Ann, "I'll tend your loom, if you'll look after this." Sally Ann never failed to locate the trouble or to untangle the yarn. Yet she was never made overseer, and this continued to puzzle Susan.[1]

The manufacture of cotton was a new industry, developing with great promise in the United States, when Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15, 1820, in the wide valley at the foot of Mt. Greylock, near Adams, Massachusetts. Enterprising young men like her father, Daniel Anthony, saw a potential cotton mill by the side of every rushing brook, and young women, eager to earn the first money they could call their own, were leaving the farms, for a few months at least, to work in the mills. Cotton cloth was the new sensation and the demand for it was steadily growing. Brides were proud to display a few cotton sheets instead of commonplace homespun linen.

When Susan was two years old, her father built a cotton factory of twenty-six looms beside the brook which ran through Grandfather Read's meadow, hauling the cotton forty miles by wagon from Troy, New York. The millworkers, most of them young girls from Vermont, boarded, as was the custom, in the home of the millowner; Susan's mother, Lucy Read Anthony, although she had three small daughters to care for, Guelma, Susan, and Hannah, boarded eleven of the millworkers with only the help of a thirteen-year-old girl who worked for her after school hours. Lucy Anthony cooked their meals on the hearth of the big kitchen fireplace, and in the large brick oven beside it baked crisp brown loaves of bread. In addition, washing, ironing, mending, and spinning filled her days. But she was capable and strong and was doing only what all women in this new country were expected to do. She taught her young daughters to help her, and Susan, even before she was six, was very useful; by the time she was ten she could cook a good meal and pack a dinner pail.

* * * * *

Hard work and skill were respected as Susan grew up in the rapidly expanding young republic which less than fifty years before had been founded and fought for. Settlers, steadily pushing westward, had built new states out of the wilderness, adding ten to the original thirteen. Everywhere the leaven of democracy was working and men were putting into practice many of the principles so boldly stated in the Declaration of Independence, claiming for themselves equal rights and opportunities. The new states entered the Union with none of the traditional property and religious limitations on the franchise, but with manhood suffrage and all voters eligible for office. The older states soon fell into line, Massachusetts in 1820 removing property qualifications for voters. Before long, throughout the United States, all free white men were enfranchised, leaving only women, Negroes, and Indians without the full rights of citizenship.

Although women freeholders had voted in some of the colonies and in New Jersey as late as 1807,[2] just as in England in the fifteenth franchise had gradually found its way into the statutes, and women's rights as citizens were ignored, in spite of the contribution they had made to the defense and development of the new nation. However, European travelers, among them De Tocqueville, recognized that the survival of the New World experiment in government and the prosperity and strength of the people were due in large measure to the superiority of American women. A few women had urged their claims: Abigail Adams asked her husband, a member of the Continental Congress, "to remember the ladies" in the "new code of laws"; and Hannah Lee Corbin of Virginia pleaded with her brother, Richard Henry Lee, to make good the principle of "no taxation without representation" by enfranchising widows with property.[3]

Yet the legal bondage of women continued to be overlooked. It seemed a less obvious threat to free institutions and democratic government than the Negro in slavery. In fact, Negro slavery presented a problem which demanded attention again and again, flaring up alarmingly in 1820, the year Susan B. Anthony was born, when Missouri was admitted to the Union as a slave state.[4]

* * * * *

These were some of the forces at work in the minds of Americans during Susan's childhood. Her father, a liberal Quaker, was concerned over the extension of slavery, and she often heard him say that he tried to avoid purchasing cotton raised by slave labor. This early impression of the evil of slavery was never erased.

The Quakers' respect for women's equality with men before God also left its mark on young Susan. As soon as she was old enough she went regularly to Meeting with her father, for all of the Anthonys were Quakers. They had migrated to western Massachusetts from Rhode Island, and there on the frontier had built prosperous farms, comfortable homes, and a meeting house where they could worship God in their own way. Susan, sitting with the women and children on the hand-hewn benches near the big fireplace in the meeting house[5] which her ancestors had built, found peace and consecration in the simple unordered service, in the long reverent silence broken by both the men and the women in the congregation as they were led to say a prayer or give out a helpful message. Forty families now worshiped here, the women sitting on one side and the men on the other; but women took their places with men in positions of honor, Susan's own grandmother, Hannah Latham Anthony, an elder, sitting in the "high seat," and her aunt, Hannah Anthony Hoxie, preaching as the spirit moved her. With this valuation of women accepted as a matter of course in her church and family circle, Susan took it for granted that it existed everywhere.

Although her father was a devout Friend, she discovered that he had the reputation of thinking for himself, following the "inner light" even when its leading differed from the considered judgment of his fellow Quakers. For this he became a hero to her, especially after she heard the romantic story of his marriage to Lucy Read who was not a Quaker. The Anthonys and the Reads had been neighbors for years, and Lucy was one of the pupils at the "home school" which Grandfather Humphrey Anthony had built for his children on the farm, under the weeping willow at the front gate. Daniel and Lucy were schoolmates until Daniel at nineteen was sent to Richard Mott's Friends' boarding school at Nine Partners on the Hudson. When he returned as a teacher, he found his old playmate still one of the pupils, but now a beautiful tall young woman with deep blue eyes and glossy brown hair. Full of fun, a good dancer, and always dressed in the prettiest clothes, she was the most popular girl in the neighborhood. Promptly Daniel Anthony fell in love with her, but an almost insurmountable obstacle stood in the way: Quakers were not permitted to "marry out of Meeting." This, however, did not deter Daniel.

It was harder for Lucy to make up her mind. She enjoyed parties, dances, and music. She had a full rich voice, and as she sat at her spinning wheel, singing and spinning, she often wished that she could "go into a ten acre lot with the bars down"[6] and let her voice out. If she married Daniel, she would have to give all this up, but she decided in favor of Daniel. A few nights before the wedding, she went to her last party and danced until four in the morning while Daniel looked on and patiently waited until she was ready to leave.

For his transgression of marrying out of Meeting, Daniel had to face the elders as soon as he returned from his wedding trip. They weighed the matter carefully, found him otherwise sincere and earnest, and decided not to turn him out. Lucy gave up her dancing and her singing. She gave up her pretty bright-colored dresses for plain somber clothes, but she did not adopt the Quaker dress or use the "plain speech." She went to meeting with Daniel but never became a Quaker, feeling always that she could not live up to their strict standard of righteousness.[7]

This was Susan's heritage—Quaker discipline and austerity lightened by her father's independent spirit and by the kindly understanding of her mother who had not forgotten her own fun-loving girlhood; an environment where men and women were partners in church and at home, where hard physical work was respected, where help for the needy and unfortunate was spontaneous, and where education was regarded as so important that Grandfather Anthony built a school for his children and the neighbors' in his front yard. Her childhood was close enough to the Revolution to make Grandfather Read's part in it very real and a source of great pride. Eagerly and often she listened to the story of how he enlisted in the Continental army as soon as the news of the Battle of Lexington reached Cheshire and served with outstanding bravery under Arnold at Quebec, Ethan Allen at Ticonderoga, and Colonel Stafford at Bennington while his young wife waited anxiously for him throughout the long years of the war.

* * * * *

The wide valley in the Berkshire Hills where Susan grew up made a lasting impression on her. There was beauty all about her—the fruit trees blooming in the spring, the meadows white with daisies, the brook splashing over the rocks and sparkling in the summer sun, the flaming colors of autumn, the strength and companionship of the hills when the countryside was white with snow. She seldom failed to watch the sun set behind Greylock.

Her father's cotton mill flourished. Regarded as one of the most promising, successful young men of the district, he soon attracted the attention of Judge John McLean, a cotton manufacturer of Battenville, New York, who, eager to enlarge his mills, saw in Daniel Anthony an able manager. Daniel, always ready to take the next step ahead, accepted McLean's offer, and on a sunny July day in 1826, Susan drove with her family through the hills forty-four miles to the new world of Battenville.

Here in the home of Judge McLean, she saw Negroes for the first time, Negroes working to earn their freedom. Startled by their black faces, she was a little afraid, but when her father explained that in the South they could be sold like cattle and torn from their families, her fear turned to pity.

At the district school, taught by a woman in summer and by a man in the winter, she learned to sew, spell, read, and write, and she wanted to study long division but the schoolmaster, unable to teach it, saw no reason why a woman should care for such knowledge. Her father, then realizing the need of better education for his five children, Guelma, Susan, Hannah, Daniel, and Mary, established a school for them in the new brick building where he had opened a store. Later on when their new brick house was finished, he set aside a large room for the school, and here for the first time in that district the pupils had separate seats, stools without backs, instead of the usual benches around the schoolroom walls. He engaged as teachers young women who had studied a year or two in a female seminary; and because female seminaries were rare in those days, women teachers with up-to-date training were hard to find. Only a few visionaries believed in the education of women. Nearby Emma Willard's recently established Troy Female Seminary was being watched with interest and suspicion. Mary Lyon, who had not yet founded her own seminary at Mt. Holyoke, was teaching at Zilpha Grant's school in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and one of her pupils, Mary Perkins, came to Battenville to teach the Anthony children. Mary Perkins brought new methods and new studies to the little school. She introduced a primer with small black illustrations which fascinated Susan. She taught the children to recite poetry, drilled them regularly in calisthenics, and longed to add music as well, but Daniel Anthony forbade this, for Quakers believed that music might seduce the thoughts of the young. So Susan, although she often had a song in her heart, had to repress it and never knew the joy of singing the songs of childhood.

Her father, looking upon the millworkers as part of his family, started an evening school for them, often teaching it himself or calling in the family teacher. He organized a temperance society among the workers, and all signed a pledge never to drink distilled liquor. When he opened a store in the new brick building, he refused to sell liquor, although Judge McLean warned him it would ruin his trade. Daniel Anthony went even further. He resolved not to serve liquor when the millworkers' houses were built and the neighbors came to the "raising." Again Judge McLean protested, feeling certain that the men and boys would demand their gin and their rum, but Susan and her sisters helped their mother serve lemonade, tea, coffee, doughnuts, and gingerbread in abundance. The men joked a bit about the lack of strong drink which they expected with every meal, but they did not turn away from the good substitutes which were offered and they were on hand for the next "raising." Hearing all of this discussed at home, Susan, again proud of her father, ardently advocated the cause of temperance.

* * * * *

The mill was still of great interest to her and she watched every operation closely in her spare time, longing to try her hand at the work. One day when a "spooler" was ill, Susan and her sister Hannah eagerly volunteered to take her place. Their father was ready to let them try, pleased by their interest and curious to see what they could do, but their mother protested that the mill was no place for children. Finally Susan's earnest pleading won her mother's reluctant consent, and the two girls drew lots for the job. It went to twelve-year-old Susan on the condition that she divide her earnings with Hannah. Every day for two weeks she went early to the mill in her plain homespun dress, her straight hair neatly parted and smoothed over her ears. Proudly she tended the spools. She was skillful and quick, and received the regular wage of $1.50 a week, which she divided with Hannah, buying with her share six pale blue coffee cups for her mother who had allowed her this satisfying adventure.

A few weeks before her thirteenth birthday, Susan became a member of the Society of Friends which met in nearby Easton, New York, and learned to search her heart and ask herself, "Art thou faithful?" Parties, dancing, and entertainments were generally ruled out of her life as sinful, and rarely were a temptation, but occasionally her mother, remembering her own good times, let her and her sisters go to parties at the homes of their Presbyterian neighbors, and for this her father was criticized at Friends' Meeting. Condemning bright colors, frills, and jewelry as vain and worldly, Susan accepted plain somber clothing as a mark of righteousness, and when she deviated to the extent of wearing the Scotch-plaid coat which her mother had bought her, she wondered if the big rent torn in it by a dog might not be deserved punishment for her pride in wearing it.

That same year, the family moved into their new brick house of fifteen rooms, with hard-finish plaster walls and light green woodwork, the finest house in that part of the country. Here Susan's brother Merritt was born the next April, and her two-year-old sister, Eliza, died.

Susan, Guelma, and Hannah continued their studies longer than most girls in the neighborhood, for Quakers not only encouraged but demanded education for both boys and girls. As soon as Susan and her sister Guelma were old enough, they taught the "home" school in the summer when the younger children attended, and then went further afield to teach in nearby villages. At fifteen Susan was teaching a district school for $1.50 a week and board, and although it was hard for her to be away from home, she accepted it as a Friend's duty to provide good education for children. Now Presbyterian neighbors criticized her father, protesting that well-to-do young ladies should not venture into paid work.

Daniel Anthony was now a wealthy man, his factory the largest and most prosperous in that part of the country, and he could afford more and better education for his daughters. He sent Guelma, the eldest, to Deborah Moulson's Friends' Seminary near Philadelphia, where for $125 a year "the inculcation of the principles of Humility, Morality, and Virtue" received particular attention; and when Guelma was asked to stay on a second year as a teacher, he suggested that Susan join her there as a pupil.

* * * * *

It was a long journey from Battenville to Philadelphia in 1837, and when Susan left her home on a snowy afternoon with her father, she felt as if the parting would be forever. Her first glimpse of the world beyond Battenville interested her immensely until her father left her at the seminary, and then she confessed to her diary, "Oh what pangs were felt. It seemed impossible for me to part with him. I could not speak to bid him farewell."[8] She tried to comfort herself by writing letters, and wrote so many and so much that Guelma often exclaimed, "Susan, thee writes too much; thee should learn to be concise." As it was a rule of the seminary that each letter must first be written out carefully on a slate, inspected by Deborah Moulson, then copied with care, inspected again, and finally sent out after four or five days of preparation, all spontaneity was stifled and her letters were stilted and overvirtuous. This censorship left its mark, and years later she confessed, "Whenever I take my pen in hand, I always seem to be mounted on stilts."[9]

To her diary she could confide her real feelings—her discouragement over her lack of improvement and her inability to understand her many "sins," such as not dotting an i, too much laughter, or smiling at her friends instead of reproving them for frivolous conduct. She wrote, "Thought so much of my resolutions to do better in the future that even my dreams were filled with these desires.... Although I have been guilty of much levity and nonsensical conversation, and have also admitted thoughts to occupy my mind which should have been far distant from it, I do not consider myself as having committed any wilful offense but perhaps the reason I cannot see my own defects is because my heart is hardened."[10]

The girls studied a variety of subjects, arithmetic, algebra, literature, chemistry, philosophy, physiology, astronomy, and bookkeeping. Men came to the school to conduct some of the classes, and Deborah Moulson was also assisted by several student teachers, one of whom, Lydia Mott, became Susan's lifelong friend. Susan worked hard, for she was a conscientious child, but none of her efforts seemed to satisfy Deborah Moulson, who was a hard taskmaster. Her reproofs cut deep, and once when Susan protested that she was always censured while Guelma was praised, Deborah Moulson sternly replied, "Thy sister Guelma does the best she is capable of, but thou dost not. Thou hast greater abilities and I demand of thee the best of thy capacity."[11]

Mail from home was a bright spot, bringing into those busy austere days news of her friends, and when she read that one of them had married an old widower with six children, she reflected sagely, "I should think any female would rather live and die an old maid."[12]

Then came word that her father's business had been so affected by the financial depression that the family would have to give up their home in Battenville. Sorrowfully she wrote in her diary, "O can I ever forget that loved residence in Battenville, and no more to call it home seems impossible."[13] It helped little to realize that countless other families throughout the country were facing the future penniless because banks had failed, mills were shut down, and work on canals and railroads had ceased. In April 1838, Daniel Anthony came to the seminary to take his daughters home.

Susan felt keenly her father's sorrow over the failure of his business and the loss of the home he had built for his family, and she resolved at once to help out by teaching in Union Village, New York. In May 1838, she wrote in her diary, "On last evening ... I again left my home to mingle with strangers which seems to be my sad lot. Separation was rendered more trying on account of the embarrassing condition of our business affairs, an inventory was expected to be taken today of our furniture by assignees.... Spent this day in school, found it small and quite disorderly. O, may my patience hold out to persevere without intermission."[14]

Her patience did hold out, and also her courage, as the news came from home telling her how everything had to be sold to satisfy the creditors, the furniture, her mother's silver spoons, their clothing and books, the flour, tea, coffee, and sugar in the pantries. She rejoiced to hear that Uncle Joshua Read from Palatine Bridge, New York, had come to the rescue, had bought their most treasured and needed possessions and turned them over to her mother.

On a cold blustery March day in 1839, when she was nineteen, Susan moved with her family two miles down the Battenkill to the little settlement of Hardscrabble, later called Center Falls, where her father owned a satinet factory and grist mill, built in more prosperous times. These were now heavily mortgaged but he hoped to save them. They moved into a large house which had been a tavern in the days when lumber had been cut around Hardscrabble. It was disappointing after their fine brick house in Battenville, but they made it comfortable, and their love for and loyalty to each other made them a happy family anywhere. As it had been a halfway house on the road to Troy and travelers continued to stop there asking for a meal or a night's lodging, they took them in, and young Daniel served them food and nonintoxicating drinks at the old tavern bar.

Susan, when her school term was over, put her energies into housework, recording in her diary, "Did a large washing today.... Spent today at the spinning wheel.... Baked 21 loaves of bread.... Wove three yards of carpet yesterday."[15]

The attic of the tavern had been finished off for a ballroom with bottles laid under the floor to give a nice tone to the music of the fiddles, and now the young people of the village wanted to hold their dancing school there. Susan's father, true to his Quaker training, felt obliged to refuse, but when they came the second time to tell him that the only other place available was a disreputable tavern where liquor was sold, he relented a little, and talked the matter over with his wife and daughters. Lucy Anthony, recalling her love of dancing, urged him to let the young people come. Finally he consented on the condition that Guelma, Hannah, and Susan would not dance. They agreed. Every two weeks all through the winter, the fiddles played in the attic room and the boys and girls of the neighborhood danced the Virginia reel and their rounds and squares, while the three Quaker girls sat around the wall, watching and longing to join in the fun.

Such frivolous entertainment in the home of a Quaker could not be condoned, and Daniel Anthony was not only severely censured by the Friends but read out of Meeting, "because he kept a place of amusement in his house." But he did not regret his so-called sin any more than he regretted marrying out of Meeting. He continued to attend Friends' Meeting, but grew more and more liberal as the years went by. At this time, like all Quakers, he refused to vote, not wishing in any way to support a government that believed in war, and this influenced Susan who for some years regarded voting as unimportant. He refused to pay taxes for the same reason, and she often saw him put his pocketbook on the table and then remark drily to the tax collector, "I shall not voluntarily pay these taxes. If thee wants to rifle my pocketbook, thee can do so."[16]

* * * * *

To help her father with his burden of debt was now Susan's purpose in life, and in the spring she again left the family circle to teach at Eunice Kenyon's Friends' Seminary in New Rochelle, New York. There were twenty-eight day pupils and a few boarders at the seminary, and for long periods while Eunice Kenyon was ill, Susan took full charge.

She wrote her family all the little details of her life, but their letters never came often enough to satisfy her. Occasionally she received a paper or a letter from Aaron McLean, Judge McLean's grandson, who had been her good friend and Guelma's ever since they had moved to Battenville. His letters almost always started an argument which both of them continued with zest. After hearing the Quaker preacher, Rachel Barker, she wrote him, "I guess if you would hear her you would believe in a woman's preaching. What an absurd notion that women have not intellectual and moral faculties sufficient for anything but domestic concerns."[17]

When New Rochelle welcomed President Van Buren with a parade, bands playing, and crowds in the streets, this prim self-righteous young woman took no part in this hero worship, but gave vent to her disapproval in a letter to Aaron.

Disturbed over the treatment Negroes received at Friends' Meeting in New Rochelle, she impulsively wrote him, "The people about here are anti-abolitionist and anti everything else that's good. The Friends raised quite a fuss about a colored man sitting in the meeting house, and some left on account of it.... What a lack of Christianity is this!"[18]

Her school term of fifteen weeks, for which she was paid $30, was over early in September, just in time for her to be at home for Guelma's wedding to Aaron McLean, and afterward she stayed on to teach the village school in Center Falls. This made it possible for her to join in the social life of the neighborhood. Often the young people drove to nearby villages, twenty buggies in procession. On a drive to Saratoga, her escort asked her to give up teaching to marry him. She refused, as she did again a few years later when a Quaker elder tried to entice her with his fine house, his many acres, and his sixty cows. Although she had reached the age of twenty, when most girls felt they should be married, she was still particular, and when a friend married a man far inferior mentally, she wrote in her diary, "'Tis strange, 'tis passing strange that a girl possessed of common sense should be willing to marry a lunatic—but so it is."[19]

During the next few years, both she and Hannah taught school almost continuously, for $2 to $2.50 a week. Time and time again Susan replaced a man who had been discharged for inefficiency. Although she made a success of the school, she discovered that she was paid only a fourth the salary he had received, and this rankled.

Almost everywhere except among Quakers, she encountered a false estimate of women which she instinctively opposed. After spending several months with relatives in Vermont, where she had the unexpected opportunity of studying algebra, she stopped over for a visit with Guelma and Aaron in Battenville, where Aaron was a successful merchant. Eagerly she told them of her latest accomplishment. Aaron was not impressed. Later at dinner when she offered him the delicious cream biscuits which she had baked, he remarked with his most tantalizing air of male superiority, "I'd rather see a woman make biscuits like these than solve the knottiest problem in algebra."

"There is no reason," she retorted, "why she should not be able to do both."[20]


[1] Report of the International Council of Women, 1888 (Washington, 1888), p. 163.

[2] Charles B. Waite, "Who Were the Voters in the Early History of This Country?" Chicago Law Times, Oct., 1888.

[3] Janet Whitney, Abigail Adams (Boston, 1947), p. 129. In 1776, Abigail Adams wrote her husband, John Adams, at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, "In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors! Do not put such unlimited powers into the hands of husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation." Ethel Armes, Stratford Hall (Richmond, Va., 1936), pp. 206-209.

[4] Under the Missouri Compromise, Maine was admitted as a free state, Missouri as a slave state, and slavery was excluded from all of the Louisiana Purchase, north of latitude 36 deg.31'.

[5] The meeting house, built in 1783, is still standing. It is owned by the town of Adams, and cared for by the Adams Society of Friends Descendants. Susan traced her ancestry to William Anthony of Cologne who migrated to England and during the reign of Edward VI, was made Chief Graver of the Royal Mint and Master of the Scales, holding this office also during the reign of Queen Mary and part of Queen Elizabeth's reign. In 1634, one of his descendants, John Anthony, settled in Rhode Island, and just before the Revolution, his great grandson, David, Susan's great grandfather, bought land near Adams, Massachusetts, then regarded as the far West.

[6] Ida Husted Harper, The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony (Indianapolis, 1898), I, p. 10.

[7] Daniel and Susannah Richardson Read gave Lucy and Daniel Anthony land for their home, midway between the Anthony and Read farms. Here Susan was born in a substantial two-story, frame house, built by her father.

[8] Ms., Diary, 1837.

[9] Harper, Anthony, I, p. 25.

[10] Ms., Diary, Jan. 21, Feb. 10, 1838

[11] Harper, Anthony, I, p. 31.

[12] Ms., Diary, Feb. 26, 1838.

[13] Ibid., Feb. 6, 1838.

[14] Ibid., May 7, 1838.

[15] Harper, Anthony, I, p. 36.

[16] Ibid., p. 37.

[17] Ibid., p. 40.

[18] Ibid., p. 39.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., pp. 43-44.


Unable to recoup his business losses in Center Falls and losing even the satinet factory, Susan's father had looked about in Virginia and Michigan as well as western New York for an opportunity to make a fresh start. A farm on the outskirts of Rochester looked promising, and with the money which Lucy Anthony had inherited from Grandfather Read and which had been held for her by Uncle Joshua Read, the first payment had been made on the farm by Uncle Joshua, who held it in his name and leased it to Daniel.[21] Had it been turned over to Susan's mother, it would have become Daniel Anthony's property under the law and could have been claimed by his creditors.

Only Susan, Merritt, and Mary climbed into the stage with their parents, early in November 1845, on the first lap of their journey to their new home, near Rochester, New York. Guelma and Hannah[22] were both married and settled in homes of their own, and young Daniel, clerking in Lenox, had decided to stay behind.

After a visit with Uncle Joshua at Palatine Bridge, they boarded a line boat on the Erie Canal, taking with them their gray horse and wagon; and surrounded by their household goods, they moved slowly westward. Standing beside her father in the warm November sunshine, Susan watched the strong horses on the towpath, plodding patiently ahead, and heard the wash of the water against the prow and the noisy greeting of boat horns. As they passed the snug friendly villages along the canal and the wide fertile fields, now brown and bleak after the harvest, she wondered what the new farm would be like and what the future would bring; and at night when the lights twinkled in the settlements along the shore, she thought longingly of her old home and the sisters she had left behind.

After a journey of several days, they reached Rochester late in the afternoon. Her father took the horse and wagon off the boat, and in the chill gray dusk drove them three miles over muddy roads to the farm. It was dark when they arrived, and the house was cold, empty, and dismal, but after the fires were lighted and her mother had cooked a big kettle of cornmeal mush, their spirits revived. Within the next few days they transformed it into a cheerful comfortable home.

The house on a little hill overlooked their thirty-two acres. Back of it was the barn, a carriage house, and a little blacksmith shop.[23] Looking out over the flat snowy fields toward the curving Genesee River and the church steeples in Rochester, Susan often thought wistfully of the blue hills around Center Falls and Battenville and of the good times she had had there.

The winter was lonely for her in spite of the friendliness of their Quaker neighbors, the De Garmos, and the Quaker families in Rochester who called at once to welcome them. Her father found these neighbors very congenial and they readily interested him in the antislavery movement, now active in western New York. Within the next few months, several antislavery meetings were held in the Anthony home and opened a new world to Susan. For the first time she heard of the Underground Railroad which secretly guided fugitive slaves to Canada and of the Liberty party which was making a political issue of slavery. She listened to serious, troubled discussion of the annexation of Texas, bringing more power to the proslavery block, which even the acquisition of free Oregon could not offset. She read antislavery tracts and copies of William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator, borrowed from Quaker friends; and on long winter evenings, as she sat by the fire sewing, she talked over with her father the issues they raised.

When spring came and the trees and bushes leafed out, she took more interest in the farm, discovering its good points one by one—the flowering quince along the driveway, the pinks bordering the walk to the front door, the rosebushes in the yard, and cherry trees, currant and gooseberry bushes in abundance. Her father planted peach and apple orchards and worked the "sixpenny farm,"[24] as he called it, to the best of his ability, but the thirty-two acres seemed very small compared with the large Anthony and Read farms in the Berkshires, and he soon began to look about for more satisfying work. This he found a few years later with the New York Life Insurance Company, then developing its business in western New York. Very successful in this new field, he continued in it the rest of his life, but he always kept the farm for the family home.

* * * * *

The first member of the family to leave the Rochester farm was Susan. The cherry trees were in bloom when she received an offer from Canajoharie Academy to teach the female department. As Canajoharie was across the river from Uncle Joshua Read's home in Palatine Bridge and he was a trustee of the academy, she read between the lines his kindly interest in her. He was an influential citizen of that community, a bank director and part owner of the Albany-Utica turnpike and the stage line to Schenectady. Accepting the offer at once, she made the long journey by canal boat to Canajoharie, and early in May 1846 was comfortably settled in the home of Uncle Joshua's daughter, Margaret Read Caldwell.

She soon loved Margaret as a sister and was devoted to her children. None of her new friends were Quakers and she enjoyed their social life thoroughly, leaving behind her forever the somber clothing which she had heretofore regarded as a mark of righteousness. She began her school with twenty-five pupils and a yearly salary of approximately $110. This was more than she had ever earned before, and for the first time in her life she spent her money freely on herself.

Her first quarterly examination, held before the principal, the trustees, and parents, established her reputation as a teacher, and in addition everyone said, "The schoolmarm looks beautiful."[25] She had dressed up for the occasion, wearing a new plaid muslin, purple, white, blue, and brown, with white collar and cuffs, and had hung a gold watch and chain about her neck. She wound the four braids of her smooth brown hair around her big shell comb and put on her new prunella gaiters with patent-leather heels and tips. She looked so pretty, so neat, and so capable that many of the parents feared some young man would fall desperately in love with her and rob the academy of a teacher. She did have more than her share of admirers. She soon saw her first circus and went to her first ball, a real novelty for the young woman who had sat demurely along the wall in the attic room of her Center Falls home while her more worldly friends danced.

In spite of all her good times, she missed her family, but because of the long trip to Rochester, she did not return to the farm for two years. She spent her vacations with Guelma and Hannah, who lived only a few hours away, or in Albany with her former teacher at Deborah Moulson's seminary, Lydia Mott, a cousin by marriage of Lucretia Mott. In anticipation of a vacation at home, she wrote her parents, "Sometimes I can hardly wait for the day to come. They have talked of building a new academy this summer, but I do not believe they will. My room is not fit to stay in and I have promised myself that I would not pass another winter in it. If I must forever teach, I will seek at least a comfortable house to do penance in. I have a pleasant school of twenty scholars, but I have to manufacture the interest duty compels me to exhibit.... Energy and something to stimulate is wanting! But I expect the busy summer vacation spent with my dearest and truest friends will give me new life and fresh courage to persevere in the arduous path of duty. Do not think me unhappy with my fate, no not so. I am only a little tired and a good deal lazy. That is all. Do write very soon. Tell about the strawberries and peaches, cherries and plums.... Tell me how the yard looks, what flowers are in bloom and all about the farming business."[26]

* * * * *

During her visits in Albany with Lydia Mott, who was now an active abolitionist, Susan heard a great deal about antislavery work. At this time, however, Canajoharie took little interest in this reform movement, but temperance was gaining a foothold. Throughout the country, Sons of Temperance were organizing and women wanted to help, but the men refused to admit them to their organizations, protesting that public reform was outside women's sphere. Unwilling to be put off when the need was so great, women formed their own secret temperance societies, and then, growing bolder, announced themselves as Daughters of Temperance.

Canajoharie had its Daughters of Temperance, and Susan, long an advocate of temperance, gladly joined the crusade, and made her first speech when the Daughters of Temperance held a supper meeting to interest the people of the village. Few women at this time could have been persuaded to address an audience of both men and women, believing this to be bold, unladylike, and contrary to the will of God; but the young Quaker, whose grandmother and aunts had always spoken in Meeting when the spirit moved them, was ready to say her word for temperance, taking it for granted that it was not only woman's right but her responsibility to speak and work for social reform.

About two hundred people assembled for the supper, and entering the hall, Susan found it festooned with cedar and red flannel and to her amazement saw letters in evergreen on one of the walls, spelling out Susan B. Anthony.

"I hardly knew how to conduct myself amidst so much kindly regard,"[27] she confided to her family.

She had carefully written out her speech and had sewn the pages together in a blue cover. Now in a clear serious voice, she read its formal flowery sentences telling of the weekly meetings of "this now despised little band" which had awakened women to the great need of reform.

"It is generally conceded," she declared, "that our sex fashions the social and moral state of society. We do not assume that females possess unbounded power in abolishing the evil customs of the day; but we do believe that were they en masse to discontinue the use of wine and brandy as beverages at both their public and private parties, not one of the opposite sex, who has any claim to the title of gentleman, would so insult them as to come into their presence after having quaffed of that foul destroyer of all true delicacy and refinement.... Ladies! There is no neutral position for us to assume...."[28]

The next day the village buzzed with talk of the meeting; only a few criticized Susan for speaking in public, and almost all agreed that she was the smartest woman in Canajoharie.

While she was busy with her temperance work, there were stirrings among women in other parts of New York State in the spring and early summer of 1848. Through the efforts of a few women who circulated petitions and the influence of wealthy men who saw irresponsible sons-in-law taking over the property they wanted their daughters to own, a Married Women's Property Law passed the legislature; this made it possible for a married woman to hold real estate in her own name. Heretofore all property owned by a woman at marriage and all received by gift or inheritance had at once become her husband's and he had had the right to sell it or will it away without her consent and to collect the rents or the income. The new law was welcomed in the Anthony household, for now Lucy Anthony's inheritance, which had bought the Rochester farm, could at last be put in her own name and need no longer be held for her by her brother.

In the newspapers in July, Susan read scornful, humorous, and indignant reports of a woman's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, at which women had issued a Declaration of Sentiments, announcing themselves men's equals. They had protested against legal, economic, social, and educational discriminations and asked for the franchise. A woman's rights convention in the 1840s was a startling event. Women, if they were "ladies" did not attend public gatherings where politics or social reforms were discussed, because such subjects were regarded as definitely out of their sphere. Much less did they venture to call meetings of their own and issue bold resolutions.

Susan was not shocked by this break with tradition, but she did not instinctively come to the defense of these rebellious women, nor champion their cause. She was amused rather than impressed. Yet Lucretia Mott's presence at the convention aroused her curiosity. Among her father's Quaker friends in Rochester, she had heard only praise of Mrs. Mott, and she herself, when a pupil at Deborah Moulson's seminary, had been inspired by Mrs. Mott's remarks at Friends' Meeting in Philadelphia.

So far Susan had encountered few barriers because she was a woman. She had had little personal contact with the hardships other women suffered because of their inferior legal status. To be sure, it had been puzzling to her as child that Sally Hyatt, the most skillful weaver in her father's mill, had never been made overseer, but the fact that her mother had not the legal right to hold property in her own name did not at the time make an impression upon her. Brought up as a Quaker, she had no obstacles put in the way of her education. She had an exceptional father who was proud of his daughters' intelligence and ability and respected their opinions and decisions. Her only real complaint was the low salary she had been obliged to accept as a teacher because she was a woman. She sensed a feeling of male superiority, which she resented, in her brother-in-law, Aaron McLean, who did not approve of women preachers and who thought it more important for a woman to bake biscuits than to study algebra. She met the same arrogance of sex in her Cousin Margaret's husband, but she had not analyzed the cause, or seen the need of concerted action by women.

Returning home for her vacation in August, she found to her surprise that a second woman's rights convention had been held in Rochester in the Unitarian church, that her mother, her father, and her sister Mary, and many of their Quaker friends had not only attended, but had signed the Declaration of Sentiments and the resolutions, and that her cousin, Sarah Burtis Anthony, had acted as secretary. Her father showed so much interest, as he told her about the meetings, that she laughingly remarked, "I think you are getting a good deal ahead of the times."[29] She countered Mary's ardent defense of the convention with good-natured ridicule. The whole family, however, continued to be so enthusiastic over the meetings and this new movement for woman's rights, they talked so much about Elizabeth Cady Stanton "with her black curls and ruddy cheeks"[30] and about Lucretia Mott "with her Quaker cap and her crossed handkerchief of the finest muslin," both "speaking so grandly and looking magnificent," that Susan's interest was finally aroused and she decided she would like to meet these women and talk with them. There was no opportunity for this, however, before she returned to Canajoharie for another year of teaching.

It proved to be a year of great sadness because of the illness of her cousin Margaret whom she loved dearly. In addition to her teaching, she nursed Margaret and looked after the house and children. She saw much to discredit the belief that men were the stronger and women the weaker sex, and impatient with Margaret's husband, she wrote her mother that there were some drawbacks to marriage that made a woman quite content to remain single. In explanation she added, "Joseph had a headache the other day and Margaret remarked that she had had one for weeks. 'Oh,' said the husband, 'mine is the real headache, genuine pain, yours is sort of a natural consequence.'"[31]

Within a few weeks Margaret died. This was heart-breaking for Susan, and without her cousin, Canajoharie offered little attraction. Teaching had become irksome. The new principal was uncongenial, a severe young man from the South whose father was a slaveholder. Susan longed for a change, and as she read of the young men leaving for the West, lured by gold in California, she envied them their adventure and their opportunity to explore and conquer a whole new world.

* * * * *

The peaches were ripe when Susan returned to the farm. The orchard which her father had planted, now bore abundantly. Restless and eager for hard physical work, she discarded the stylish hoops which impeded action, put on an old calico dress, and spent days in the warm September sunshine picking peaches. Then while she preserved, canned, and pickled them, there was little time to long for pioneering in the West.

She enjoyed the active life on the farm for she was essentially a doer, most happy when her hands and her mind were busy. As she helped with the housework, wove rag carpet, or made shirts by hand for her father and brothers, she dreamed of the future, of the work she might do to make her life count for something. Teaching, she decided, was definitely behind her. She would not allow her sister Mary's interest in that career to persuade her otherwise, even if teaching were the only promising and well-thought-of occupation for women. Reading the poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, she was deeply stirred and looked forward romantically to some great and useful life work.

The Liberator, with its fearless denunciation of Negro slavery, now came regularly to the Anthony home, and as she pored over its pages, its message fired her soul. Eagerly she called with her father at the home of Frederick Douglass, who had recently settled in Rochester and was publishing his paper, the North Star. Not only did she want to show friendliness to this free Negro of whose intelligence and eloquence she had heard so much, but she wanted to hear first-hand from him and his wife of the needs of his people.

Almost every Sunday the antislavery Quakers met at the Anthony farm. The Posts, the Hallowells, the De Garmos, and the Willises were sure to be there. Sometimes they sent a wagon into the city for Frederick Douglass and his family. Now and then famous abolitionists joined the circle when their work brought them to western New York—William Lloyd Garrison, looking with fatherly kindness at his friends through his small steel-rimmed spectacles; Wendell Phillips, handsome, learned, and impressive; black-bearded, fiery Parker Pillsbury; and the friendly Unitarian pastor from Syracuse, the Reverend Samuel J. May. Susan, helping her mother with dinner for fifteen or twenty, was torn between establishing her reputation as a good cook and listening to the interesting conversation. She heard them discuss woman's rights, which had divided the antislavery ranks. They talked of their antislavery campaigns and the infamous compromises made by Congress to pacify the powerful slaveholding interests. Like William Lloyd Garrison, all of them refused to vote, not wishing to take any part in a government which countenanced slavery. They called the Constitution a proslavery document, advocated "No Union with Slaveholders," and demanded immediate and unconditional emancipation. All about them and with their help the Underground Railroad was operating, circumventing the Fugitive Slave Law and guiding Negro refugees to Canada and freedom. Amy and Isaac Post's barn, Susan knew, was a station on the Underground, and the De Garmos and Frederick Douglass almost always had a Negro hidden away. She heard of riots and mobs in Boston and Ohio; but in Rochester not a fugitive was retaken and there were no street battles, although the New York Herald advised the city to throw its "nigger printing press"[32] into Lake Ontario and banish Douglass to Canada.

As the Society of Friends in Rochester was unfriendly to the antislavery movement, Susan with her father and other liberal Hicksite Quakers left it for the Unitarian church. Here for the first time they listened to "hireling ministry" and to a formal church service with music. This was a complete break with what they had always known as worship, but the friendly Christian spirit expressed by both minister and congregation made them soon feel at home. This new religious fellowship put Susan in touch with the most advanced thought of the day, broke down some of the rigid precepts drilled into her at Deborah Moulson's seminary, and encouraged liberalism and tolerance. Although there had been austerity in the outward forms of her Quaker training, it had developed in her a very personal religion, a strong sense of duty, and a high standard of ethics, which always remained with her. It had fostered a love of mankind that reached out spontaneously to help the needy, the unfortunate, and the oppressed, and this now became the driving force of her life. It led her naturally to seek ways and means to free the Negro from slavery and to turn to the temperance movement to wipe out the evil of drunkenness.

These were the days when the reformed drunkard, John B. Gough, was lecturing throughout the country with the zeal of an evangelist, getting thousands to sign the total-abstinence pledge. Inspired by his example, the Daughters of Temperance were active in Rochester. They elected Susan their president, and not only did she plan suppers and festivals to raise money for their work but she organized new societies in neighboring towns. Her more ambitious plans for them were somewhat delayed by home responsibilities which developed when her father became an agent of the New York Life Insurance Company. This took him away from home a great deal, and as both her brothers were busy with work of their own and Mary was teaching, it fell to Susan to take charge of the farm. She superintended the planting, the harvesting, and the marketing, and enjoyed it, but she did not let it crowd out her interest in the causes which now seemed so vital.

Horace Greeley's New York Tribune came regularly to the farm, for the Anthonys, like many others throughout the country, had come to depend upon it for what they felt was a truthful report of the news. In this day of few magazines, it met a real need, and Susan, poring over its pages, not only kept in touch with current events, but found inspiration in its earnest editorials which so often upheld the ideals which she felt were important. She found thought-provoking news in the full and favorable report of the national woman's rights convention held in Worcester, Massachusetts, in October 1850. Better informed now through her antislavery friends about this new movement for woman's rights, she was ready to consider it seriously and she read all the stirring speeches, noting the caliber of the men and women taking part. Garrison, Phillips, Pillsbury, and Lucretia Mott were there, as well as Lucy Stone, that appealing young woman of whose eloquence on the antislavery platform Susan had heard so much, and Abby Kelley Foster, whose appointment to office in the American Antislavery Society had precipitated a split in the ranks on the "woman question."

* * * * *

A year later, when Abby Kelley Foster and her husband Stephen spoke at antislavery meetings in Rochester, Susan had her first opportunity to meet this fearless woman. Listening to Abby's speeches and watching the play of emotion on her eager Irish face under the Quaker bonnet, Susan wondered if she would ever have the courage to follow her example. Like herself, Abby had started as a schoolteacher, but after hearing Theodore Weld speak, had devoted herself to the antislavery cause, traveling alone through the country to say her word against slavery and facing not only the antagonism which abolition always provoked, but the unreasoning prejudice against public speaking by women, which was fanned into flame by the clergy. For listening to Abby Kelley, men and women had been excommunicated. Mobs had jeered at her and often pelted her with rotten eggs. She had married a fellow-abolitionist, Stephen Foster, even more unrelenting than she.

Sensing Susan's interest in the antislavery cause and hoping to make an active worker of her, Abby and Stephen suggested that she join them on a week's tour, during which she marveled at Abby's ability to hold the attention and meet the arguments of her unfriendly audiences and wondered if she could ever be moved to such eloquence.

Not yet ready to join the ranks as a lecturer, she continued her apprenticeship by attending antislavery meetings whenever possible and traveled to Syracuse for the convention which the mob had driven out of New York. Eager for more, she stopped over in Seneca Falls to hear William Lloyd Garrison and the English abolitionist, George Thompson, and was the guest of a temperance colleague, Amelia Bloomer, an enterprising young woman who was editing a temperance paper for women, The Lily.

To her surprise Susan found Amelia in the bloomer costume about which she had read in The Lily. Introduced in Seneca Falls by Elizabeth Smith Miller, the costume, because of its comfort, had so intrigued Amelia that she had advocated it in her paper and it had been dubbed with her name. Looking at Amelia's long full trousers, showing beneath her short skirt but modestly covering every inch of her leg, Susan was a bit startled. Yet she could understand the usefulness of the costume even if she had no desire to wear it herself. In fact she was more than ever pleased with her new gray delaine dress with its long full skirt.

Seneca Falls, however, had an attraction for Susan far greater than either William Lloyd Garrison or Amelia Bloomer, for it was the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton whom she had longed to meet ever since 1848 when her parents had reported so enthusiastically about her and the Rochester woman's rights convention. Walking home from the antislavery meeting with Mrs. Bloomer, Susan met Mrs. Stanton. She liked her at once and later called at her home. They discussed abolition, temperance, and woman's rights, and with every word Susan's interest grew. Mrs. Stanton's interest in woman's rights and her forthright, clear thinking made an instant appeal. Never before had Susan had such a satisfactory conversation with another woman, and she thought her beautiful. Mrs. Stanton's deep blue eyes with their mischievous twinkle, her rosy cheeks and short dark hair gave her a very youthful appearance, and it was hard for Susan to realize she was the mother of three lively boys.

Susan listened enthralled while Mrs. Stanton told how deeply she had been moved as a child by the pitiful stories of the women who came to her father's law office, begging for relief from the unjust property laws which turned over their inheritance and their earnings to their husbands. For the first time, Susan heard the story of the exclusion of women delegates from the World's antislavery convention in London, in 1840, which Mrs. Stanton had attended with her husband and where she became the devoted friend of Lucretia Mott. She now better understood why these two women had called the first woman's rights convention in 1848 at which Mrs. Stanton had made the first public demand for woman suffrage.

They talked about the bloomer costume which Mrs. Stanton now wore and about dress reform which at the moment seemed to Mrs. Stanton an important phase of the woman's rights movement, and she pointed out to Susan the advantages of the bloomer in the life of a busy housekeeper who ran up and down stairs carrying babies, lamps, and buckets of water. She praised the freedom it gave from uncomfortable stays and tight lacing, confident it would be a big factor in improving the health of women.

Thoroughly interested, Susan left Seneca Falls with much to think about, but not yet converted to the bloomer costume, or even to woman suffrage. Of one thing, however, she was certain. She wanted this woman of vision and courage for her friend.


[21] Anthony Collection, Museum of Arts and Sciences, Rochester, New York.

[22] Hannah Anthony married Eugene Mosher, a merchant of Easton, New York, on September 4, 1845.

[23] Ms., Susan B. Anthony Memorial Collection, Rochester, New York.

[24] Harper, Anthony, I, p. 48.

[25] Ibid., p. 50.

[26] May 28, 1848, Lucy E. Anthony Collection.

[27] Harper, Anthony, I, p. 53.

[28] Ms., Susan B. Anthony Papers, Library of Congress.

[29] Report of the International Council of Women, 1888, p. 327.

[30] To Nora Blatch, n.d., Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers, Vassar College Library, Poughkeepsie, New York.

[31] Harper, Anthony, I. p. 52.

[32] Amy H. Croughton, Antislavery Days in Rochester (Rochester, N.Y., 1936). Anyone implicated in the escape of a slave was liable to $1000 fine, to the payment of $1000 to the owner of the fugitive, and to a possible jail sentence of six months.


Susan was soon rejoicing at the prospect of meeting Lucy Stone and Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune. Mrs. Stanton had invited her to Seneca Falls to discuss with them and other influential men and women the founding of a people's college. Unhesitatingly she joined forces with Mrs. Stanton and Lucy Stone to insist that the people's college be opened to women on the same terms as men. Lucy had proved the practicability of this as a student at Oberlin, the first college to admit women, and was one of the first women to receive a college degree. However, to suggest coeducation in those days was enough to jeopardize the founding of a college, and Horace Greeley stood out against them, his babylike face, fringed with throat whiskers, getting redder by the moment as he begged them not to agitate the question.

The people's college did not materialize, but out of this meeting grew a friendship between Susan, Elizabeth Stanton, and Lucy Stone, which developed the woman's rights movement in the United States. Susan discovered at once that Lucy, like Mrs. Stanton, was an ardent advocate of woman's rights. Brought up in a large family on a farm in western Massachusetts where a woman's lot was an unending round of hard work with no rights over her children or property, Lucy had seen much to make her rebellious. Resolving to free herself from this bondage, she had worked hard for an education, finally reaching Oberlin College. Here she held out for equal rights in education, and now as she went through the country, pleading for the abolition of slavery, she was not only putting into practice woman's right to express herself on public affairs, but was scattering woman's rights doctrine wherever she went. Listening to this rosy-cheeked, enthusiastic young woman with her little snub nose and soulful gray eyes, Susan began to realize how little opposition in comparison she herself had met because she was a woman. Not only had her father encouraged her to become a teacher, but he had actually aroused her interest in such causes as abolition, temperance, and woman's rights, while both Lucy and Mrs. Stanton had met disapproval and resistance all the way.

She found Lucy, as well as Mrs. Stanton, in the bloomer dress, praising its convenience. As Lucy traveled about lecturing, in all kinds of weather, climbing on trains, into carriages, and walking on muddy streets, she found it much more practical and comfortable than the fashionable long full skirts. Nevertheless, there was discomfort in being stared at on the streets and in the chagrin of her friends. This reform was much on their minds and they discussed it pro and con, for Mrs. Stanton was facing real persecution in Seneca Falls, with boys screaming "breeches" at her when she appeared in the street and with her husband's political opponents ridiculing her costume in their campaign speeches. Both women, however, felt it their duty to bear this cross to free women from the bondage of cumbersome clothing, hoping always that the bloomer, because of its utility, would win converts and finally become the fashion. Susan admired their courage, but still could not be persuaded to put on the bloomer.

Fired with their zeal, she began planning what she herself might do to rouse women. The idea of a separate woman's rights movement did not as yet enter her mind. Her thoughts turned rather to the two national reform movements already well under way, temperance and antislavery. While a career as an antislavery worker appealed strongly to her, she felt unqualified when she measured herself with the courageous Grimke sisters from South Carolina, or with Abby Kelley Foster, Lucy Stone, and the eloquent men in the movement. She had made a place for herself locally in temperance societies, and she decided that her work was there—to make women an active, important part of this reform.

That winter, as a delegate of the Rochester Daughters of Temperance, she went with high hopes to the state convention of the Sons of Temperance in Albany, where she visited Lydia Mott and her sister Abigail, who lived in a small house on Maiden Lane. Both Lydia and Abigail, because of their independence, interested Susan greatly. They supported themselves by "taking in" boarders from among the leading politicians in Albany. They also kept a men's furnishings store on Broadway and made hand-ruffled shirt bosoms and fine linen accessories for Thurlow Weed, Horatio Seymour, and other influential citizens. Their political contacts were many and important, and yet they were also among the very few in that conservative city who stood for temperance, abolition of slavery, and woman's rights. Their home was a rallying point for reformers and a refuge for fugitive slaves. It was to be a second home to Susan in the years to come.

When Susan and the other women delegates entered the convention of the Sons of Temperance, they looked forward proudly, if a bit timidly, to taking part in the meetings, but when Susan spoke to a motion, the chairman, astonished that a woman would be so immodest as to speak in a public meeting, scathingly announced, "The sisters were not invited here to speak, but to listen and to learn."[33]

This was the first time that Susan had been publicly rebuked because she was a woman, and she did not take it lightly. Leaving the hall with several other indignant women delegates, amid the critical whisperings of those who remained "to listen and to learn," she hurried over to Lydia's shop to ask her advice on the next step to be taken. Lydia, delighted that they had had the spirit to leave the meeting, suggested they engage the lecture room of the Hudson Street Presbyterian Church and hold a meeting of their own that very night. She went with them to the office of her friend Thurlow Weed, the editor of the Evening Journal, who published the whole story in his paper.

Well in advance of the meeting, Susan was at the church, feeling very responsible, and when she saw Samuel J. May enter, she was greatly relieved. He had read the notice in the Evening Journal and persuaded a friend to come with him. To see his genial face in the audience gave her confidence, for he would speak easily and well if others should fail her. Only a few people drifted into the meeting, for the night was snowy and cold. The room was poorly lighted, the stove smoked, and in the middle of the speeches, the stovepipe fell down. Yet in spite of all this, a spirit of independence and accomplishment was born in that gathering and plans were made to call a woman's state temperance convention in Rochester with Susan in charge.

All this Susan reported to her new friend, Elizabeth Stanton, who promised to help all she could, urging that the new organization lead the way and not follow the advice of cautious, conservative women. Susan agreed, and as a first step in carrying out this policy, she asked Mrs. Stanton to make the keynote speech of the convention. Soon the Woman's State Temperance Society was a going concern with Mrs. Stanton as president and Susan as secretary. There was no doubt about its leading the way far ahead of the rank and file of the temperance movement when Mrs. Stanton, with Susan's full approval, recommended divorce on the grounds of drunkenness, declaring, "Let us petition our State government so to modify the laws affecting marriage and the custody of children that the drunkard shall have no claims on wife and child."[34]

Such independence on the part of women could not be tolerated, and both the press and the clergy ruthlessly denounced the Woman's State Temperance Society. Susan, however, did not take this too seriously, familiar as she was with the persecution antislavery workers endured when they frankly expressed their convictions.

* * * * *

Now recognized as the leader of women's temperance groups in New York, Susan traveled throughout the state, organizing temperance societies, getting subscriptions for Amelia Bloomer's temperance paper, The Lily, and attending temperance conventions in spite of the fact that she met determined opposition to the participation of women. Impressed by the success of political action in Maine, where in 1851 the first prohibition law in the country had been passed, she now signed her letters, "Yours for Temperance Politics."[35] She appealed to women to petition for a Maine law for New York and brought a group of women before the legislature for the first time for a hearing on this prohibition bill. Realizing then that women's indirect influence could be of little help in political action, she saw clearly that women needed the vote.

However, it was the woman's rights convention in Syracuse, New York, in September 1852, which turned her thoughts definitely in the direction of votes for women. It was the first woman's rights gathering she had ever attended and she was enthusiastic over the people she met. She talked eagerly with the courageous Jewish lecturer, Ernestine Rose; with Dr. Harriot K. Hunt of Boston, one of the first women physicians, who was waging a battle against taxation without representation; with Clarina Nichols of Vermont, editor of the Windham County Democrat, and with Matilda Joslyn Gage, the youngest member of the convention. All of these became valuable, loyal friends in the years ahead. Susan renewed her acquaintance with Lucy Stone, and met Antoinette Brown who had also studied at Oberlin College and was now the first woman ordained as a minister. With real pleasure she greeted Mrs. Stanton's cousin, Gerrit Smith, now Congressman from New York, and his daughter, Elizabeth Smith Miller, the originator of the much-discussed bloomer. Best of all was her long-hoped-for meeting with James and Lucretia Mott and Lucretia's sister, Martha C. Wright. Only Paulina Wright Davis of Providence and Elizabeth Oakes Smith of Boston were disappointing, for they appeared at the meetings in short-sleeved, low-necked dresses with loose-fitting jackets of pink and blue wool, shocking her deeply intrenched Quaker instincts. Although she realized that they wore ultrafashionable clothes to show the world that not all woman's rights advocates were frumps wearing the hideous bloomer, she could not forgive them for what to her seemed bad taste. How could such women, she asked herself, hope to represent the earnest, hard-working women who must be the backbone of the equal rights movement? Always forthright, when a principle was at stake, she expressed her feelings frankly when James Mott, serving with her on the nominating committee, proposed Elizabeth Oakes Smith for president. His reply, that they must not expect all women to dress as plainly as the Friends, in no way quieted her opposition. To her delight, Lucretia Mott was elected, and her dignity and poise as president of this large convention of 2,000 won the respect even of the critical press. Susan was elected secretary and so clearly could her voice be heard as she read the minutes and the resolutions that the Syracuse Standard commented, "Miss Anthony has a capital voice and deserves to be clerk of the Assembly."[36]

Not all of the newspapers were so friendly. Some labeled the gathering "a Tomfoolery convention" of "Aunt Nancy men and brawling women"; others called it "the farce at Syracuse,"[37] but for Susan it marked a milestone. Never before had she heard so many earnest, intelligent women plead so convincingly for property rights, civil rights, and the ballot. Never before had she seen so clearly that in a republic women as well as men should enjoy these rights. The ballot assumed a new importance for her. Her conversion to woman suffrage was complete.

* * * * *

This new interest in the vote was steadily nurtured by Elizabeth Stanton, whom Susan now saw more frequently. Whenever she could, Susan stopped over in Seneca Falls for a visit. Here she found inspiration, new ideas, and good advice, and always left the comfortable Stanton home ready to battle for the rights of women. While Susan traveled about, organizing temperance societies and attending conventions, Mrs. Stanton, tied down at home by a family of young children, wrote letters and resolutions for her and helped her with her speeches. Susan was very reluctant about writing speeches or making them. The moment she sat down to write, her thoughts refused to come and her phrases grew stilted. She needed encouragement, and Mrs. Stanton gave it unstintingly, for she had grown very fond of this young woman whose mental companionship she found so stimulating.

During one of these visits, Susan finally put on the bloomer and cut her long thick brown hair as part of the stern task of winning freedom for women. It was not an easy decision and she came to it only because she was unwilling to do less for the cause than Mrs. Stanton or Lucy Stone. Comfortable as the new dress was, it always attracted unfavorable attention and added fuel to the fire of an unfriendly press. This fire soon scorched her at the World's Temperance convention in New York, where women delegates faced the determined animosity of the clergy, who held the balance of power and quoted the Bible to prove that women were defying the will of God when they took part in public meetings. Obliged to withdraw, the women held meetings of their own in the Broadway Tabernacle, over which Susan presided with a poise and confidence undreamed of a few months before. A success in every way, they were nevertheless described by the press as a battle of the sexes, a free-for-all struggle in which shrill-voiced women in the bloomer costume were supported by a few "male Betties." The New York Sun spoke of Susan's "ungainly form rigged out in the bloomer costume and provoking the thoughtless to laughter and ridicule by her very motions on the platform."[38] Untruth was piled upon untruth until dignified ladylike Susan with her earnest pleasing appearance was caricatured into everything a woman should not be. Less courageous temperance women now began to wonder whether they ought to associate with such a strong-minded woman as Susan B. Anthony.

There were rumblings of discontent when the Woman's State Temperance Society met in Rochester for its next annual convention in June 1853, and Susan and Mrs. Stanton were roundly criticized because they did not confine themselves to the subject of temperance and talked too much about woman's rights. Not only was Mrs. Stanton defeated for the presidency but the by-laws were amended to make men eligible as officers. Men had been barred when the first by-laws were drafted by Susan and Mrs. Stanton because they wished to make the society a proving ground for women and were convinced that men holding office would take over the management, and women, less experienced, would yield to their wishes.

This now proved to be the case, as the men began to do all the talking, calling for a new name for the society and insisting that all discussion of woman's rights be ruled out. In the face of this clear indication of a determined new policy which few of the women wished to resist, Susan refused re-election as secretary and both she and Mrs. Stanton resigned.

This was Susan's first experience with intrigue and her first rebuff by women whom she had sincerely tried to serve. Defeated, hurt, and uncertain, she poured out her disappointment in troubled letters to Elizabeth Stanton, who, with the steadying touch of an older sister, roused her with the challenge, "We have other and bigger fish to fry."[39]

* * * * *

A few months later, Susan was off on a new crusade as she attended the state teachers' convention in Rochester. Of the five hundred teachers present, two-thirds were women, but there was not the slightest recognition of their presence. They filled the back seats of Corinthian Hall, forming an inert background for the vocal minority, the men. After sitting through two days' sessions and growing more and more impatient as not one woman raised her voice, Susan listened, as long as she could endure it, to a lengthy debate on the question, "Why the profession of teacher is not as much respected as that of lawyer, doctor, or minister."[40] Then she rose to her feet and in a low-pitched, clear voice addressed the chairman.

At the sound of a woman's voice, an astonished rustle of excitement swept through the audience, and when the chairman, Charles Davies, Professor of Mathematics at West Point, had recovered from his surprise, he patronizingly asked, "What will the lady have?"

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