As I pulled the curtain behind me this morning and began to look at my ballot, I took a moment, let my breath out and sat there with a smile on my face. You see, shortly before exiting my car I was listening to NPR on the way to the polls. They had been putting random comments on the air from various voters.
One woman’s comments hit me quite to the core. She said something like this, “I am so overwhelmed to be voting for who I believe will be the next president of our country, Hillary Clinton, a woman. I thought of my grandmother, who passed in 1997 and in her lifetime women were granted the right to vote in 1920. She would be so happy to know her daughter and her granddaughter voted today. I am blown away on how far we have come.”
At this moment my thoughts drifted to Susan B. Anthony, the leader behind the 19th Century Suffrage movement. With Elizabeth Cady Stanton by her side. Susan became the essence of 19th Century Activist. As I took a moment to day dream of her accomplishments, they are almost beyond belief.
Here are a few:
- As a Suffragist, she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton began the work of woman’s suffrage in 1852. Bitterly disappointed that the Republicans left them by the wayside in passing the 15th amendment, in 1866 they founded the American Equal Rights Association. In 1872, Anthony and 3 other women were arrested in Rochester NY for voting in an election. Found guilty, they refused to pay the fines thereby losing any right to appeal. In years to come, Anthony appeared before ever congress from 1869 to 1906 advocating for a woman’s right to vote. In 1877 when she raised 10,000 signatures in 26 states petitioning this right, Congress laughed at her. This never slowed her though from her life’s work.
- As an Abolitionist, Antony worked with the American Anti-Slavery Society. Despite public threats and violence, she helped push the movement through arranging meetings and distributing informational leaflets. In 1863, Anthony and Stanton organized the Women’s National Loyal League to help push the 13th amendment to outlaw Slavery. While Afro- Americans gained their freedom and the right to vote in the 15th amendment, women were left behind from that precious right of citizenship.
- As an Educational Reformer, Anthony pushed for better pay for female teachers and equal educational opportunities regardless of race or gender. In the late 1890s, Anthony raised $50,000 (including putting up the cash value of her own life insurance policy) to hold the University of Rochester to a promise that if she did so, women would be admitted to the university as students. They were in 1900.
- As a Labor Activist, Susan started her own newspaper in 1868, The Revolution. Its masthead, “Men their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.” Here, she constantly advocated for basic rights such as an 8 hour work day, equal pay for equal work, promoting buying American products and the right for women to be able to vote. In the late 1890s, when she was president of the National American Women Suffrage Association, her organization worked to gain the support or organized labor.
Susan B. Anthony died in 1906, 14 years before the 19th amendment was passed guarantying our right as a woman in the United States of America to vote.
On Election Day in Rochester N.Y. hundreds flock to her grave and paste it with, “I voted,” stickers. Today, November 8, 2016, the line is long and the cemetery has promised to stay open late to accommodate the crowds. I am choked with emotion as a woman at this amazing tribute to the driving force which allowed us, as women, to finally get the right to vote.
By tonight we will have elected the first woman president of our country. Personally, I believe we are as divided as a nation since the Civil War. Bigotry, hatred, and violence have been reignited in this campaign as something that is acceptable by society. It is with my sincerest pray and hopes that Hillary Clinton can begin healing the great divide such as Lincoln did some 140 years ago.
In closing, I say a humble, thank you, Susan B. Anthony, for your courage. It is because of women like you that we as a nation look to continue as the bastion of freedom for all who love in this country.