Susan B.’s Sibling Trivia

Seventy people joined me for a presentation on the Anthony siblings at Webster Immanuel Lutheran Church today. What a program! Each week they meet for an exercise program followed by a speaker (this week, it was me) and then lunch–all for $2! I am impressed by this group’s creativity in serving the interests and needs of their community.

As I was preparing for the presentation, I came up with some interesting facts about the Anthony siblings. Susan had three sisters and two brothers. Here goes:

  • Both brothers moved to Kansas to serve the abolitionist movement and the Army, despite their pacifist Quaker upbringing.
  • All but two of the siblings married. Susan and her sister Mary, two linchpins of the woman suffrage movement, remained single.
  • Two sisters died of consumption. Susan feared it would claim her life also, but it never did.
  • Both brothers died of heart trouble; D.R. had a weak heart after his serious gunshot wound.
  • All the sisters voted with Susan and got arrested.
  • Susan was a teetotaler all her life; D.R. flaunted his enjoyment of alcohol and did not support prohibition.
  • Susan was a member in good standing in the Quaker fellowship, but D.R. was almost dismissed after he killed a civilian in self-defense. (He was always getting into scrapes because of his hair-trigger temper.)
  • D.R. supported Susan’s newspaper The Revolution with both advice and money. When injury and political campaigns prevented him from giving enough attention to his own newspaper (The Daily Times), Susan ran it for him.

Like all parents, the senior Daniel Anthony and his wife Lucy must have watched their children with bemusement and marveled sometimes at how such different fruits could have fallen from the same tree.

 

Back in the Saddle, Almost

After an absence of several months for family matters, I’ll soon be back to posting on this site. In the meantime, I’m preparing for a talk entitled “All in the Family: The Extended Family of Susan B. Anthony” at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Webster, NY on July 15.

A Christmas Tale

The Rochester Anthonys were not in the habit of celebrating Christmas until the end of the 19th century. “We Quakers don’t make much of Christmas,” Susan said as late as 1899.

It should come as no surprise, then, that on Christmas Day in 1860 Susan became embroiled in one of the most unpopular causes of her life. To make matters even worse, the situation was filled with cruel irony.

Ever since 1850, Susan had worked tirelessly with a group of abolitionists to free African-Americans from slavery. Along with her family and friends, she had personally assisted runaways on the Underground Railroad. For this reason, she probably assumed that her associates would spring to her aid when she tried to help a white woman and daughter who were fleeing an abusive husband—a situation with many parallels to a life of slavery.

Here’s an excerpt from my book *Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All:

“Phoebe Phelps was the wealthy mother of three children, married to a member of the Massachusetts Senate. She suspected him of loving another woman, and one day she told him so. He became so angry that he threw her down the stairs. Fearing that people would hear about his affair and his terrible temper, Senator Phelps had his wife locked up in an asylum. For a year and a half, she lived like a prisoner, away from the children she loved.”

Finally, she was released into her brother’s custody and allowed to have her children visit one at a time. On one of these occasions, she fled with her 13 year-old daughter Delia to Quaker friends, who introduced them both to Susan in Syracuse, NY.

Thus Susan marked that Christmas by boarding a train headed for New York City with the two fugitives. But as in the original Christmas story, there was no room at the inn.

“Because it was late at night when they arrived, Susan tried to get a hotel room for the night. However, the clerk refused to rent them a room [because they were not accompanied by a man]. After Susan threatened to sleep in the lobby, he gave in. The whole next day Susan took Mrs. Phelps and Delia from one friend’s home to another, but none would help them for fear of breaking the law.”

At that time, Massachusetts law viewed children and married women as property of the man of the house. Among others, Susan’s abolitionist hero William Lloyd Garrison demanded that she return the women to Senator Phelps rather than sully the antislavery movement with law-breaking on behalf of the Phelpses. Susan retorted, “Trust me that as I ignore all law to help the slave, so will I ignore it all to protect an enslaved woman.”

Susan’s father affirmed that she had made the right moral choice. Most likely, she also had the support of her brother D.R. in Kansas, who two years later as a Civil War colonel would face a court martial rather than return fugitive slaves to their masters. He frequently supported Susan’s travels on behalf of women’s rights.

Senator Phelps eventually kidnapped Delia, who was never re-united with Phoebe. In 1876, the Phelps failure probably returned to haunt Susan: when D.R.’s wife Anna needed assistance on a female issue, she turned to someone other than her famous sister-in-law.

(*Verbal Images Press, 1994)

Susan B.’s Quilt Comes Home

quilters at frame resizeThe Legler Barn Stitchers (pictured on this post) of Lenexa, Kansas were an excellent choice to complete the replica of Susan B.’s quilt. They had plenty of experience and provided a living history display as they quilted in the historic structure. Built in 1864, the Legler Barn

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