19th Amendment

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Susan B. Anthony House, Rochester, NY. Photo by Jeanne Gehret

Susan B. Anthony House, Rochester, NY. Photo by Jeanne Gehret

Would there have been a 19th amendment if Susan B. had not tried to vote in 1872? Possibly not. If her vote had been calmly counted instead of causing an uproar, maybe millions of women would have voted in the 1880 election. On the other hand, Susan was smart enough to realize that codifying woman suffrage into an amendment made it much more difficult for individual municipalities or states to deny that right on a whim.

I was musing on these issues when I attended the festival at the Susan B. Anthony House in commemoration of the Nineteenth Amendment that gave women the right to vote. As always, when I visit that museum, I learned something new. When Susan cast her ballot for Ulysses S. Grant preceding the presidential election of 1872, she was voting against someone she knew personally, namely Horace Greeley. She opposed Greeley because he did not support woman suffrage. Here’s what American Heritage Magazine had to say about Greeley and Anthony:

Anthony had asked for Greeley’s support five years earlier. “The bullet and the ballot go together, madam,” he had replied. “If you vote, are you prepared to fight?” “Yes, Mr. Greeley. Just as you fought in the late war—at the point of a goose quill.” The answer hardly endeared her cause to him, and Greeley had not changed his position in the intervening years; he had stated publicly that “the best women I know do not want to vote.” (American Heritage | Volume 37, issue 1 | winter 1985)

Greeley was the founder and editor of the New York Tribune, a leading antislavery newspaper of the mid-19th century. One of Greeley’s correspondents was none other than Susan’s brother D.R. Anthony, who founded the Leavenworth Times.This is just one of the many topics the two siblings might have disagreed upon, but they remained close all their lives.

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