Voting with Susan B. Anthony

box with the word "Vote" on it

Voting with Susan B. Anthony was a daunting task. Every year at this time, I like to reflect on Susan’s sisters who accompanied her on that fateful November day in 1872. You may enjoy a full account of her voting, arrest, and trial.

Lovers of Anthony lore often refer to Susan’s youngest sister, Mary, as the wind beneath the famous reformer’s wings. It’s easy to see why:

  • 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 voting with Susan?

Guelma Penn Anthony, the oldest child in the Anthony family, attended Miss Moulson’s Academy in Philadelphia and, like Susan, taught for several years. While the family lived in Battenville, NY, Guelma married Aaron McLean, the son of her father’s business associate. Susan’s letters, as well as anecdotes about him, suggest a fond, easygoing relationship with her brother-in-law.

Eventually, the McLeans moved from Battenville to Rochester, where they lived for several years at 17 Madison Street with Susan, Mary, and their mother Lucy. (Hannah and her family lived next door.) The McLeans had four children, but only one lived a full adult life. Susan’s biography gives a glimpse of the crushing blow of 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 to register for the 1872 election at the local barbershop. After Susan was tried and convicted for that vote, she remained in Rochester for 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)

All for Suffrage, Part 1

Susan B. Anthony’s family members were all for women’s suffrage, each in his or her own way. Some supported voting rights by actually casting ballots, while others supported campaigns for African-Americans and women to vote. Susan had a strong support system for her reform work.

Continue reading

Voting This Year?


Seneca Falls 1If you are one of the millions of Americans who has decided not to vote this year, please think again. Being an admirer of suffrage advocates Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, I support voting as a right to be cherished, even if you think the selections on the ballot are not optimum.

This is not a sneaky plug for one candidate or the other but a plea to support the American voting system (whether you think it’s flawed or not) that so many of our forbears have sacrificed so much to achieve.

Need information about candidates? Type “2016 ballot sample” into your internet browser and enter your address. You will receive a complete listing of national, state, and local candidates and can read about them at leisure.  Don’t lose sight of those people seeking election for state and local posts because someday they may be running for the higher-profile offices.

You can also get candidate information from the League of Women Voters at Click here for their interesting summary of how voter turnout counteracts the millions of dollars spent trying to swing elections.

My travels last month afforded me the opportunity to hear sobering perspectives on our 2016 presidential election from both Canadians and Mexicans. Then I visited the Women’s Rights National Historical Park to reflect on the beginnings of the universal suffrage movement  in the U.S.

These photos that I took there show some of the pioneers who staked their reputations, personal safety, and resources on getting the vote. The first group of inspiring statues depicts Elizabeth Cady Stanton holding the umbrella while standing next to (very tall) Frederick Douglass. The next photo shows James and Lucretia Mott who, with Douglass and Stanton, were some of the original signers of the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments that kicked off the women’s movement in Seneca Falls, NY.

Voting is like a muscle. You have to exercise it to stay healthy. So go out and do it!

Brain teaser: why was Susan B not represented among the bronze statues at Seneca Falls?



19th Amendment

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. Continue reading