Guelma Voted with Susan B. Anthony

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What sacrifices our foremothers made for the right to vote! I’m reposting this since most of it got cut off last time.

Lovers of Anthonsilhouette w braidy memorabilia like to refer to Susan’s youngest sister, Mary, as the wind beneath the famous reformer’s wings. It’s easy to see why, since Mary remained single, cared for mother Lucy Anthony in her widowhood, kept the Madison Street home where numerous family members lodged  (including Susan), and was a leader in the Women’s Political Equality Club. But who were the other two sisters, Guelma and Hannah?

Guelma Penn Anthony, the oldest child in the Anthony family, attended Miss Moulson’s Academy in Philadelphia and, like Susan, taught for several years. At the age of 21, while the family lived in Battenville, NY, she married Aaron McLean, the son of her father’s business associate. Her letters to Aaron, as well as anecdotes about him, suggest a fond, easygoing relationship.

Eventually the McLeans moved from Battenville to Rochester, where  they lived for ten years in the Madison Street home with Susan, Mary, and their mother Lucy. They had four children, but only one lived a full adult life. Susan’s biography gives a glimpse of the crushing blow from the death of Ann Eliza McLean, whom Susan referred to as the most beloved of all her nieces. “She was twenty-three years old, beautiful and talented, a good musician and an artist of fine promise.” (Harper, 241) Shortly after the untimely death of her son Thomas, Guelma became ill and did not recover.

Despite the fact that Guelma was suffering from tuberculosis, she joined Susan, Hannah, and Mary on that November day in 1872 when they appeared at the local barbershop to cast their ballots for the presidential election. After Susan was tried and convicted for that vote, she remained in Rochester many months largely due to Guelma’s rapidly-failing health.

A short time after Guelma’s death in 1873 at the age of 55, Susan wrote to her mother, “Our Guelma, does she look down upon us, does she still live, and shall we all live again and know each other?” (Harper, 446-7)

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