The Anthonys’ Quaker Roots

 

Quaker Meeting House, Adams. Photo by Jeanne Gehret

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of presenting “All for Suffrage: Susan B. Anthony’s Kin” at Susan’s birthplace museum in Adams, MA, near the border of New York State.

After my presentation, my friend and I received a private tour by Adams Historical Society president Eugene Michalenko of the East Hoosuk Quaker Meetinghouse not far from Susan’s home. That is where Susan’s Aunt Hannah Hoxie (her father’s sister) sat on the “high seat” sharing spiritual insights during meetings. Hannah was regarded by the congregation as a gifted speaker in an era when women outside of Quakerism rarely spoke in public.

The high seat turned out to be on the top row of pews facing the congregation, nearest the center. Hannah’s central position connotes some importance. Measuring about 45×45 feet, the building features separate doors for men and women, who held their own meetings and kept separate records.

Once inside, a movable partial wall divides the two sides, with women and children sitting on the side with a huge open fireplace. (How kind those Quaker gentlemen were!) The dividing wall was removed during worship; thus, Hannah could be seen (and heard) by both men and women.

The Meetinghouse website includes more photos and describes many tenets of Quaker beliefs, including their opposition to war. Annually Daniel Anthony, Susan’s father, greeted the taxman by telling him that he refused to support a government that wages war and if he must extract the tax, he should riffle through Anthony’s wallet and take it himself.

Later, Susan’s brother D.R. Anthony ran afoul of Quaker pacificism when he killed a rival publisher in a streetfight in Leavenworth. By that time, the Anthonys belonged to the Rochester, NY Meeting, and a delegation wrote to D.R. questioning his adherence to the beliefs of his ancestors. Read more about that conflict in my book The Truth About Daniel, published in January.

Author Talk on Susan B. Anthony’s Kin

“All For Suffrage: Susan B. Anthony’s Kin” will be Jeanne Gehret’s topic in an evening presentation at the Penfield (N.Y.) Public Library this coming Thursday, April 27, from 7-8:30. Admission is free.

Miss Anthony’s devotion to woman suffrage is well-known. Lesser-known is how she also campaigned for black suffrage–and how her entire family supported her in both efforts.

Come discover how the members of Susan’s family thought for themselves and stood up for their beliefs–even when they risked public disapproval, arrest, the ruin of career, or death.

Copies of The Truth About Daniel, the first in the Dauntless Series about this amazing family, will be available for sale and author signing. This talk commemorates the 100th anniversary of woman suffrage in New York State.

The Anthonys on President Lincoln

On April 14, 1865 President Lincoln suffered a fatal gunshot wound from John Wilkes Booth. The news of his death reached D.R. Anthony, his wife Annie, and his sister Susan where she was visiting them in Leavenworth.

In her diary, Susan recorded that they attended different churches to hear the ministers’ pulpit commentary on the assassination. It’s likely that they felt the same kind of shock and dismay that mark our era’s reception of the news about President Kennedy’s assassination or the fall of the Twin Towers.

D.R. must have felt a special regret because he had known Lincoln personally and later taken a special interest in his safety. Lincoln spoke in Leavenworth during his presidential campaign trail in December 1859, and that night traded stories with Anthony and other friends, propping their feet up and feeding the fire as they swapped stories.

Two years later, after Anthony had fiercely defended Kansas against proslavery forces, he was invited to guard President Lincoln in the White House at the start of the Civil War. The city of Washington was isolated, surrounded by Confederate troops, and rumors spread that Lincoln would be abducted. Thanks for a shrewd intimidation campaign by Lincoln’s guards, rebel troops thought there were far more of “those damned Kansans,” many of whom had shocked the nation by fighting alongside the notorious John Brown. You can read more about this threat to Lincoln on my 3/16/16 post, “Saving Lincoln from Abduction.”

Ironically, Booth had performed in Leavenworth on the same stage where Lincoln had admonished Kansans not to resort to violence but to solve matters by voting.

 

 

 

Opera and Ventriloquists

New York City residents wanting to escape the heat in the 19th century flocked to the attractions of Saratoga Springs, NY.  Both D. R. Anthony and his sister Susan gave public lectures there1. Why was the resort such a famous destination? Continue reading

When Susan Retired Her Red Shawl

Today we commemorate the death of Susan B. Anthony.

According to Susan’s official biography, it was said that Washingtonians marked spring each year with two signs:  the return of Congress to the nation’s capital and the return of Miss Anthony in her red shawl to lobby Congress.

In her later years, the shawl was such a beloved trademark that when she stepped up on stage without it one day the newsmen ribbed her that they would not file their stories unless she wore it. She sent someone back to the hotel to fetch it. Only death could stop the indefatigable Anthony.

In 1906 (her 86th year), after making an earlier-than-usual visit to the capital, she contracted pneumonia and died at home on March 13. On her deathbed, she seemed to greet a parade of famous comrades with whom she had worked for universal suffrage. Together, they had labored long and hard and accomplished much, not only for women but for African-Americans. Still, the most precious right of female suffrage eluded her. Holding up her pinkie, she said to her lieutenant, Anna Howard Shaw, “Just think of it, I have been striving for over sixty years for a little bit of justice no bigger than that, and yet I must die without obtaining it.  Oh, it seems so cruel.”

The following is an excerpt from the New York Evening Journal’s testimonial upon Susan’s death:

No wrong under which woman suffered was too great for her to dare attack it, no injustice too small to enlist her pity and her attempt to remedy it.

She saw the tears of the slave mother with the child torn from her arms…and she was foremost among those who fought for freedom for the negro.

She saw women with great intellects starving for knowledge, and she fought to open the avenues of education to them. She saw the poverty of the sweat shop women..and she fought to better the conditions under which they worked. She saw the honor of the girl-child made the plaything of the debauchee, and she fought for laws for her protection. She saw the woman working by the side of the man for half the salary, and she fought for equal pay for equal work. She saw the intelligent, educated, tax-paying woman of the country classed by the law with the idiot, the criminal and the insane, and she died fighting, with her face to the foe, to have this monstrous injustice removed.”

Ida Husted Harper, Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, vol III. Indianapolis: Hollenbeck Press, 1908

Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian

When Free Speech isn’t Free

It almost cost Frederick Douglass his home to publish his newspaper in the Talman Building in Rochester, pictured here; and Harriet Jacobs, who operated a reading room with her brother one floor up, couldn’t make her rent, either. Continue reading

Catch my book on TV today!

The Truth About Daniel was featured today on FOX morning news. Click here to watch the newscast. I liked how they included images, but you may be confused about the picture of people standing in front of a house. It’s not Daniel’s house in Missouri, but the Anthony farm in Rochester. As far as we know, Daniel lived there with his family of origin before he moved to Kansas with the Emigrant Aid Company.

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Happy Valentine’s Day to you! I had fun writing the romance portions of this book, especially the three chapters where Daniel bumbles through a proposal to Annie and finally gets it right.

Thanks to the great people at Fox news. They have also filmed our Tool Thrift Shop and our English country dancing group. (Dancing and romancing go hand in hand in The Truth About Daniel.)