Meet Susan B.’s Family

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SBA public domain fr HY Wom SuffSusan B.Anthony’s family members were the movers and shakers of the 19th century; thus, the header photo above appropriately portrays people on the move. Susan (SBA) has been my passion since 1993, when I first became a docent at her home in Rochester, NY. This American icon embodied three major reforms of the 19th century, including woman suffrage, abolition, and temperance. She rubbed shoulders with that era’s most influential people, from Senator Charles Sumner and Frederick Douglass to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Antoinette Brown Blackwell. She traveled constantly to promote her causes by carriage, sleigh, and even freight train.

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My curiosity about the people and places that shaped her fueled many happy hours of travel and research, providing a wealth of material for my children’s biography and costumed portrayals of SBA.

Susan was particularly interested in Kansas. Although she regularly visited the places you’d expect—Albany, Boston, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York—her biography, letters, and itinerary reveal an ongoing involvement in the Sunflower State from the 1860s until her death in 1906. Why? Her reasons were both political and personal.

IMerritt Anthonyn the mid-19th century, Kansas was transitioning from a territory to statehood and giving democracy a fiery trial. Would the state espouse freedom for African-Americans? Would the strong women who helped settle that frontier achieve rights equal to those of the men they accompanied? Susan visited Kansas many times to lend her considerable support to frontier dwellers who fought for the abolition of slavery and rights for women.

Her interest was all the more keen because her brothers Daniel (D.R., center) and Merritt—both as opposed to slavery as she—emigrated to Kansas in the 1850s and raised families there. As a devoted sister and aunt, she frequently visited them and carried on her reform work from their homes. It’s no surprise, then, that two of her largest woman suffrage campaigns took place in Kansas.

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