Susan B. Anthony’s family tree–strong and supportive

Tree with many branches
Susan B. Anthony’s family tree included branches in Massachusetts, New York, and Kansas.

Susan B. Anthony’s family inspired and supported her throughout her life as an activist. When I began writing this blog in 2014, I quickly learned that though she devoted herself passionately to woman suffrage and other causes, her dedication to her family burned even brighter.

But before we go into her family tree, let’s review who Susan was and what she did.

Snapshot of Susan

In the 19th century United States, Susan B. Anthony (aka SBA) campaigned for three social causes: the abolition of slavery, temperance (moderation or abstinence from intoxicating liquor), and women’s rights. Along with her friends Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and many others, Susan mounted a grassroots organization to gain women’s right to vote at the federal level. In 1872 she was arrested for “voting illegally”–i.e. as a woman.

Adelaide Johnson’s monument of Elizabeth, Susan, and Lucretia stands in the U.S. Capitol Building.

Strong-minded people in her family tree

Copyright 2017 Verbal Images Press


A few quick facts:

  1. Her father, Daniel Anthony Sr., defied his Quaker fellowship to marry a Baptist, Lucy Read
  2. Though raised (pacifist) Quaker, both her brothers fought in the Civil War
  3. All her sisters voted with her 
  4. Her sister Mary was the first school principal in her city to receive equal pay for equal work

Anthony family origins in Massachusetts

The Anthony story began in Adams, Massachusetts at the family homestead. Four of Lucy and Daniel’s six surviving children were born in Adams, including Susan and D.R., who figure prominently in this blog. After taking a research break for several years, my visit to Adams brought about the renascence of my personal quest for all things Anthony.

Home where Susan B. Anthony was born. Photo by Jeanne Gehret
Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum by Jeanne Gehret

The Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum looks out onto Mount Greylock, which inspired Susan her entire life. Behind the home runs the Tophet Brook, which powered Daniel’s cotton mill. Here Lucy Anthony cooked, laundered and cleaned for more than 12 people. The museum has dedicated the front of the house to a birthing room and Daniel’s prosperous store.

Woman at door of old building
Jeanne Gehret portraying Susan B. Anthony at Quaker Meetinghouse, Adams, MA

In Adams, the Anthonys worshipped at the Quaker Meeting House. Although the Quakers were ahead of their time in allowing women to speak in the Meeting, nevertheless the two sexes entered through different doors.(One of the advantages of this division is that the women sat closer to the fireplace!)

The Anthonys spent a few years living in Center Falls, NY before making their final move further west.

1845 move via Erie Canal to Rochester, NY

The Erie Canal was a major transportation route during the Anthonys’ lifetime. Alongside the waterway, donkeys pulled barges along a towpath. Other boats plied the canal, too, such as line boats used to transport people with their goods.

According to SBA’s diaries, it took the Anthonys a week or more to make their way west by train, boat, and wagon from Center Falls, NY to their new home in Rochester, NY.

A lot of history has flowed along the Erie Canal. Dug partly by hand, it employed thousands of laborers who lived and brawled along its path across the top of New York State. Their penchant for liquor may have helped bring about the Second Great Awakening in upstate New York, a religious revival that had such political and social offshoots as woman suffrage, abolition, and temperance. Moral and religious reforms were so hot that the area was referred to as the “burned-over” district.

Mule pulling boat along Erie Canal

Not only did the Anthonys move to the burned-over district, but they became neighbors with Frederick Douglass and worshipped with Quakers Amy and Isaac Post, dedicated abolitionists on the Underground Railroad.

Not long after the move, Susan began her lifelong friendship with fellow reformer Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In the next decade, both would begin their rise to national fame for their work on behalf of women.

What did Susan’s siblings do?

Susan B. Anthony home in Rochester, NY, 3 stories, red brick
Susan B. Anthony House. Photo by Jeanne Gehret

SBA frequently mentioned her sisters in her diaries. At one time or another, all of them lived on Madison Street in Rochester, NY, which Susan also called home. All of them voted with her. Hannah and Guelma died in their 50s, leaving Mary to tend to the widow Lucy Anthony while Susan touched home base during her extensive travels. I had the privilege of working as a docent here in the 1990s.

Brothers D.R. and Merritt emigrated to Kansas in the 1850s as the U.S. headed into the Civil War. Kansas was, at that time, only a territory. It was engaged in a contentious vote about whether to enter the United States as a slaveholding state or a free one. The Anthony brothers decided to tip the scales towards a free state by taking up arms.

Photo by Jeanne Gehret

Susan’s brothers seared their brand into Kansas. Merritt fought with John Brown. D.R., alongside another Rochesterian named John Doy, helped to establish the city of Lawrence, an abolitionist stronghold amid proslavery enthusiasts.

Hearing about Susan’s westward-bound brothers, I began to wonder about their similarity to their famous sister:

  • Who among their parents’ dinner guests inspired Susan, Daniel, and Merritt to become such active proponents of reform?
  • How did the brothers experience the Wild West, and what role did they take in forging Kansas’ self-identity?  
  • How did Susan react when her brothers’ militant methods to advance racial equality departed from their Quaker upbringing?

Though the Anthonys were opinion-makers, they were highly influenced by Quakerism and reforms that swept the northeast, as well as by the customs and contemporaries that hindered or helped them.

Still curious? Read on!

Order SBA here
Order Daniel here

My docent experiences and early Anthony research culminated in the publication of an easy-reading biography entitled Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All. If you want more on Susan, this is a great place to begin. Be sure to get the Suffrage Centennial Edition for all the updates.

The Truth About Daniel is the first book in my trilogy about Daniel and Annie. The series includes Susan but delves more deeply into the Kansas Anthonys. This is historical fiction so compelling you’d swear I made it all up. If you want Susan B., you’ll find her in the series. But this blog, besides the series, focuses more on uncharted territory about Daniel and Annie — people who were very interesting in their own right. Book Two is on its way.

Join me as I explore the Anthonys in context. To begin, check out these posts about Daniel and Annie:


One More River to Cross at Underground Railroad Heritage Area


When fleeing slaves from the southern U.S. reached Niagara Falls, they knew they had one more river to cross. But what a river it was with its roiling cataract. The new Underground Railroad Heritage Area in Niagara Falls, NY. chronicles some of the notable African-Americans who escaped across the river and helped others to make their way to freedom.

Recently I had the privilege of touring the new museum. For those unfamiliar with the term, “Underground Railroad” refers to a series of places where escaping slaves could receive shelter and assistance after leaving the South. Following the North Star, they headed for the northern U.S., where slavery was outlawed.

However, after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, bounty hunters could recapture slaves in the north and return them to bondage. For this reason, it was far better for these fugitives to go all the way to Canada. When they reached Niagara Falls, they had one more river to cross.

Anthony Involvement in the Underground Railraoad

The Anthony family approved of this civil disobedience of helping slaves escape. They hosted many antislavery dinners at their farm home in Rochester, and three of their children (Susan, D.R., and Merritt) campaigned against slavery with speeches, petition campaigns, and physical warfare. Among the family’s closest friends were Undergound Railroad “conductors” (owners of safe houses) Amy and Isaac Post and Frederick Douglass.

Active or Passive Escapees?

Sometimes conductors used the code word “parcel” for a fugitive needing assistance. This term erroneously suggests that freedom seekers were passive goods carried away from slavery by other (usually white) people’s initiatives. The term gives little credit to the courage and intelligence exhibited by fleeing slaves themselves. (I strove for the correct balance in The Truth About Daniel, when I wrote about the escape of Randall Burton on Martha’s Vineyard.)

The Underground Railroad Heritage Area tips the racial balance by showing black abolitionists at work, united in the effort to help freedom seekers cross their last barrier  to freedom, the Niagara River.. A daring feat, to say the least. More next time.



Daniel Anthony’s Abolitionist Activities

“Well mercy me!” as they might have exclaimed in the 19th century. It seems I never published the post explaining why Daniel Anthony’s abolitionist activities were controversial. So let’s play catch-up. The photo above, from a mural in Pleasant Hill, Missouri, should give you a clue.

When Susan B. Anthony was four, her brother Daniel Read Anthony was born on August 22, 1824. The family called him “D.R.” to distinguish him from Susan’s father, whose name was also Daniel. Brother and sister grew up to be ardent abolitionists.

Jayhawkers and Bushwhackers

Before the Civil War, while Susan was hosting speaking tours for the New York State Antislavery Society, D.R. joined Jennison’s Jayhawkers on the Kansas-Missouri border, sparking fear in slaveholders’ hearts by laying waste to farms and liberating their slaves. Some blamed the Jayhawkers’ raids for inciting rage in Quantrill and his band, who attacked Lawrence.

After the jayhawkers raided Missouri slaveholders, they would free people in bondage and also “liberate” livestock. That is why midwesterners either hated or revered the jayhawkers, depending on politics of the onlooker. (Click here for a previous post about the livestock issue.)

The Border War between Kansas and Missouri involved Southern sympathizers (“bushwhackers,” usually from Missouri) tampering with Kansas elections. Bushwhackers were typically young plantation residents who made guerilla raids and retreated to the safety of their homes. The only way the abolitionists could rout them out was to attack the homes where the bushwhackers received provisions and protection.

The Kansas Seventh

Later, when the Civil War began, D.R. helped Charles Jennison organize a Union cavalry unit called the Kansas Seventh. They were so thorough in burning out bushwhackers that only the chimneys survived, nicknamed “Jennison’s tombstones.”

As hated as he was by some for the border raids, D.R. was also called “The Moses of Kansas” for the number of African-Americans he liberated. Sometimes as many as a hundred slaves followed the Seventh across the Kansas border into freedom.

New Underground Railroad Exhibit at Niagara Falls

A whole new source of information on the Underground Railroad is opening next weekend in Niagara Falls, starting May 4. I’m excited because it will offer more in-depth background for my historical novels in The Dauntless Series, featuring abolitionists Daniel Read Anthony and his sister Susan.

Here’s the scoop on the new museum:

Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

825 Depot Avenue W.
Niagara Falls, NY 14305

Why is this new museum important?

States bordering Canada, particularly in the East, were the last frontier for enslaved people seeking freedom before the Civil War. Niagara Falls, NY, just across the river from Canada, admitted many freedom seekers traveling through New York State. I am familiar with many such stories that took place near my home in Rochester, and always wondered what happened to those travelers after they left here.

Gala Opening

The opening weekend includes a gala on Friday, a dinner on Saturday, and community day (for the general public) on Sunday. Thereafter it will assume a regular schedule.Read all about it here.

Their website offers some intriguing and detailed stories about an organized group of African-American waiters who risked their lives and businesses to help enslaved people to cross the border. Click on the tab “Underground Railroad Sites” to read about these individuals and some of the places where those escapes occurred.

For those of us who love the grandeur of the falls at Niagara, it’s just one more reason to visit this well-known northern city. Hope to see you there!

The Anthony Connection

Daniel and Susan B. Anthony lived in Rochester, about 60 miles from the famous falls at Niagara. Each of them, but especially Daniel, lent a hand to escaping fugitives. It would not have been unusual for either of them to visit Niagara Falls, since it was already a well-known tourist attraction during their time. Already my mind is conjuring up images of them speaking to a waiter and setting foot on one of the paths that led to river crossings.

Historic Rochesterian Burns Up the West

Historic Rochesterian Daniel Read Anthony, brother of Susan B., wielded both fire and bullets to bring about the end of slavery in the Wild West. Pictured behind me is the city of Leavenworth, Kansas around 1860, where Daniel emigrated after selling insurance in Rochester, New York for several years.

Throughout his life, Daniel also supported his sister’s more peaceful but equally radical attempts to bring about equal rights for women.

How did his convictions mesh with Susan’s? And what methods did he use? Learn all about it at this upcoming talk:

Powerpoint presentation by Jeanne Gehret

The Truth About Daniel: Susan B. Anthony’s Forgotten Brother

Saturday, April 21, 1-2:30

Rochester Public Library, Central (Rundel) branch

South Avenue

Sponsored by Rochester’s Rich History Series



Library Talk on Susan B. Anthony’s Contentious Brother

This desk at the Leavenworth County Historical Society belonged to Daniel Read Anthony, publisher of the Leavenworth Times.

Susan B. Anthony and her brother Daniel Read Anthony remained close all their lives. Daniel  lived in Rochester for several years before starting a contentious newspaper in Leavenworth, Kansas. This roll top desk where I am sitting belonged to him. I like to think that he penned some of his flaming editorials right here.

My visit to his adopted home will be one of the topics I’ll discuss this month at my Powerpoint talk at the Central (Rundel) Library’s “Rochester’s Rich History” talk. Here’s the scoop:

“The Truth About Daniel: Susan B. Anthony’s Forgotten Brother”

Powerpoint presentation by Jeanne Gehret

Saturday, April 21, 1-2:30

Rochester Public Library, Central (Rundel) branch

115 South Avenue

Sponsored by Rochester’s Rich History Series

D.R., as he was called, sold insurance in Rochester for several years while saving money to move to Kansas. His own life was anything but risk-free as he rushed into burning buildings, spirited slaves away from owners, and traded both insults and gunshots on the streets of Leavenworth. Meanwhile he encouraged and supported Susan B. Anthony’s campaign for women’s rights.

Susan B. Anthony’s Forgotten Brother

The “The Truth About Daniel: Susan B. Anthony’s Forgotten Brother”

Powerpoint presentation by Jeanne Gehret

Saturday, April 21, 1-2:30

Rochester Public Library, Central (Rundel) branch

115 South Avenue

Sonsored by Rochester’s Rich History Series

Preparing this presentation has been fun, since it offers another opportunity for me to gather facts in one place on this many-faceted man. This blog has offered many sound bytes about him. However, the Powerpoint talk will present a concise overview of his long and controversial life.

It’s always a pleasure to talk about Rochester’s rich history. Hope to see you there!

P.S. The talk is based on my 2017 historical novel The Truth About Daniel.  You can get a signed copy at the presentation. Or order it on Amazon or Kindle.



Progress Report on the Dauntless Series

After the holidays I got bitten by the decluttering bug, resulting in a massive cleanup effort in my office. Removal of some furniture gave me a new view of my beloved books, plus some favorite objects in purple, the color of suffrage.

Continue reading