A snapshot biography of Susan Brownell Anthony

Susan Brownell Anthony Biography

“I think it [bicycling] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. It makes her feel as if she were independent. The moment she takes her seat, she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammelled womanhood.”

Oil portrait of Susan Brownell Anthony from 1895, depicted in profile view looking to the right. She has grey hair parted in the middle and pulled back, rimless glasses, and is wearing a black dress with a lace collar and a red shawl draped over her shoulders. The background is a plain, dark brown color, and the signature 'Gutherz 1895' is visible at the bottom right corner.
Susan Brownell Anthony, 1895

Susan Brownell Anthony lived in a time when people in the U.S. questioned women’s right to give speeches in public. At times, Susan would have to wait before speaking engagements while men debated whether her speaking would be proper. Undeterred, she continued public speaking, even at the risk of arrest.

Susan was strong-willed, energetic, a strategic thinker with discipline and organizational skills, and a mindset that “cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about reform.” 

Born in 1820 into a Quaker family of ardent social reformers, it didn’t take long for her to join reform causes. By sixteen, she was collecting signatures for petitions against slavery. She continued fighting for abolishing slavery, organizing anti-slavery meetings and conventions and more petitions, and taking part in the Underground Railroad until slavery was abolished. She was fearless in this pursuit, at times requiring police escorts for safety at meetings where “rotten eggs were thrown, benches broken, and knives and pistols gleamed in every direction.” 

While she worked to help abolish slavery, Susan became known for working to improve equality for women. Susan voted illegally in the Presidential election of 1872, for which she was arrested, tried, found guilty, and fined. “You have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored,” she protested. And “I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty,” she said. She never paid the fine.

Susan passed away in 1906, fourteen years before women received the right to vote after the passing of the 19th Amendment.


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