I encourage every American woman to pause on February 15 to say happy birthday to Susan B. Anthony. This remarkable woman was born in 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts, and grew up to lead a cohort of women to advocate for rights that we often take for granted today.
When she was a girl, there were only seven professions open to women. Wives had no say over their children’s welfare or their money, even if they earned it themselves, brought it into the marriage, or inherited it. They could be “disciplined” with anything smaller in diameter than a man’s thumb.
Susan’s quest for women’s rights was inclusive, encompassing stronger liquor laws to protect women from domestic violence; female education for and entrance into many professions; and voting rights across the United States.
Another reason we should wish Susan happy birthday is her work to guarantee that rights for women and African-Americans could not be removed on a whim. The only way this could happen was by putting them into law. Indirectly or directly, her campaigns helped to bring about reforms outlined in five constitutional amendments:
- 13th—freeing African-American slaves
- 14th—extending citizenship to former slaves
- 15th—extending the vote to African-American men
- 16th—outlawing liquor consumption
- 19th—extending the vote to American women
Not only was Susan an extraordinary woman, she came from a remarkable family, as well. All of her siblings were activists in their own way — especially Daniel, her oldest brother. For an overview of her family, click here.