Susan B.’s 200th

It is good to see Susan venerated on her birthday, especially since she was often regarded as troublesome during her lifetime. I wonder how troubled she would be by some of the current causes that have tried to co-opt her support posthumously.

Susan B. Anthony and Daniel Read Anthony

Though I have not been blogging recently, my interest in Susan never flags. My focus since 2012 has been on Susan in the context of her family, which was very important to her, especially formative about her attitudes on the abolition of slavery.

Today’s Google slideshow about her mentioned how important the family’s Sunday antislavery dinners were, and even noted her brother Merritt’s involvement with crusader John Brown in Kansas. However, Google failed to mention her other abolitionist brother Daniel, whose influence on Kansas society and on Susan was much greater. This assures me that my work on Daniel in my Dauntless Series is still plowing new ground.

My first historical novel on Daniel’s family, The Truth About Daniel, was published in 2017. Now I am putting the finishing touches on the rough draft of the second book in the Dauntless Series and hope to have it published by the end of this anniversary year. In this new book, Susan’s abolitionist activities and reform methods both inspire her Kansas family and critique it. The novel examines the Civil War from three important viewpoints: that of a slave, an abolitionist, and a family that was attacked by abolitionists.

It features the many ways women were affected by the war, a theme that historians often forget to notice in their focus on soldiers, battles, generals, and bloodshed. I like to think that Susan, who was always living and writing herstory, would approve of my approach.

If you are looking for an easy-read biography of Susan based on the biography that she authorized during her lifetime, please check out my book Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All, available on Amazon and Kindle. And stay tuned for my next novel where she makes cameo appearances.

Happy Birthday, Susan B. Anthony

The celebrations for Susan B. Anthony’s birthday (February 15) seemed to have swelled in size as her years increased. Newspapers were filled with tributes to her, and she received many gifts.

At her 80th birthday celebration, she shook hands with well-wishers for two hours. Three tributes stand out from the many she received that evening:

  • From Wyoming, the first state to grant woman suffrage, came a flag, with the explanation that it bore “on its field forty-one common stars and four diamonds, representing the four progressive or suffrage States—Wyoming,…Colorado, Utah, and Idaho. …We hope you may live to see all the common stars turn into diamonds.”
  • She received notice that upon her return home, she would find two fine Smyrna rugs in the parlor and sitting room, which were getting worn because the Anthony home sometimes entertained up to 50 guests a day—a custom that she may have learned from her parents’ hospitality in her childhood home in Adams.
  • Eighty boys and girls, marching in time to music, passed in single file across the stage where Miss Anthony sat and deposited a rose—one for each of her 80 years—in her lap.

(Ida Husted Harper, The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, p. 1184)

On her 86th birthday, Susan exerted her indomitable determination to appear on the speaker’s platform in Washington once more, despite severe nerve pain. Because of her frailty, she was not expected to speak, but she wanted to say one last word. In appreciation she stretched out her hand thanking the national officers on the stage and then said these famous words:

“There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause…. with such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible!”

(Harper, p. 1409)

Returning to her Rochester home under the care of a nurse, she took to her bed and soon developed pneumonia.

As this blog chronicles Susan’s life alongside her brothers and sisters, it is worth noting that only Mary, Susan’s youngest sister, outlived the great reformer. Devoted homekeeper for all of Susan’s public life, Mary sat vigil with a host of suffrage friends who had become as close as family.

Within a month of her 86th birthday, Susan died.

 

 

Was Susan B. Anthony Honored During Her Lifetime?

SBA age 48 800Although Susan’s early years were filled with bitter opposition,she became much loved for her tireless work on behalf of women and African-Americans. On Susan’s birthdays, many affectionate friends and family frequently lavished attention on her. One year her brother D.R. sent her a lovely silver-backed mirror.

On her fiftieth birthday, Susan had been living for two years in New York City, where she published a newspaper called The Revolution. Here is a description of her birthday party that year from the NewYork World:

A large number of friends and admirers of the private virtues and public services of Miss Anthony assembled…to congratulate the lady upon this auspicious anniversary…Miss Anthony stood at the entrance of the front parlor to receive her numerous friends. She wore a dress of rich shot silk, dark red and black, cut square in front, with a stomacher of white lace and a pretty cameo brooch. All female vanities she rigorously discarded–no hoop, train, bustle, panier, chignon, powder, paint, rouge, patches, no nonsense of any sort. From her kindly eyes…there beamed the sweetest smiles to all those loving friends who, admiring her really admirable efforts in the cause of human freedom, her undaunted heroism amid a dark and gloomy warfare, were glad to press her hand and show their appreciation of her character and achievements. (from Harper’s biography of Susan)

Harper noted that she received many beautiful gifts and also checks to the amount of $1000. Usually gifts of this kind were put directly into the service of the campaign for woman suffrage.

This photo of Susan at the age of 48 is reproduced from The History of Woman Suffrage and is my favorite picture of her in her prime. Many iconic images have depicted her as an old woman, but according to her biographer, she was still skipping on the sidewalk and running up the steps at the age of 80. Along with her determination, her vigor and stamina were a wonder to behold. That is always how I choose to portray her when I am in costume, as I will be this weekend at the Birthplace in Massachusetts.