Though Miss Anthony did not know all of them, each one came from her era and worked to make us a more equitable and just nation. We have far to go to complete the reforms they championed, but knowing of their work can help us go and do likewise whenever we have a chance.
Today we remember Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte as one of these great American women. She traced her desire to study medicine to an experience at the age of eight. Young Susan LaFlesche kept vigil at the bedside of a Native woman while waiting for a (white) doctor who promised to come, but never arrived. The patient died. In those dark moments, Susan realized that Natives needed doctors devoted to their care. Rather than lament the lack, she became one.
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.
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.
Jeanne Gehret will be signing books at one of her favorite bookstores this Saturday, 3/24/17. Come say hello at Simply New York on Culver Road and find out why she hasn’t been blogging much lately. Continue reading →
Susan B. Anthony’s family members were all for 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. She had Continue reading →
Ontario County is celebrating woman suffrage at a fine exhibit in Canandaigua, NY, the town where Susan B. Anthony was convicted for voting. It runs until April 1, 2018. In addition to great details about the women who campaigned hard for New York State suffrage, it also contains several beautiful period gowns and a reproduction of a bloomer costume. (To my surprise, the bloomer outfit was calico!)
The exhibit shows how the various cities and towns in New York State voted on its own woman suffrage amendment in 1917, three years before the federal amendment passed. I’m sorry to say that Rochester, the city where Susan lived her last 40 years, voted no. Thank goodness that neither she nor Mary Anthony were living in that year. Fortunately, the majority of the state endorsed the amendment, and it passed.
Susan’s Trial in Ontario County
Susan B. Anthony’s 1873 trial for “voting illegally as a woman” occurred in Ontario County. The museum that houses this exhibit sits just a few blocks away from the courthouse where the judge denied her a trial by jury and found her guilty.
Starting at the museum, I walked downhill past the courthouse toward the shopping district. Browsing the stores, I wondered whether these same buildings lined Canandaigua’s main street when Susan attended her trial. Since it’s about 30 miles away from her Rochester home, she probably stayed overnight . That evening, did she lodge with a friend or keep her nerves to herself in a hotel? Where did she take her meals during the days when her trial was in session?
The courthouse (pictured above during the 19th century) was considerably smaller in 1873 than it is now. I can imagine the number of carriages parked around it as people jammed the courtroom to hear Susan’s lawyer* and the district attorney square off. Even former president Millard Fillmore attended.
After receiving the guilty verdict, Susan stayed in town for a couple more days to witness the trial of the voting inspectors who allowed her to register and cast her ballot. I hope she got at least a glimpse of the beautiful lake at the bottom of the hill. When the inspectors were found guilty and jailed for a week, she made sure they had plenty of visitors and good food to pass the time.
*Henry Selden defended Susan. Interestingly, when Frederick Douglass had to flee Rochester because he was suspected of supporting John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, he borrowed Selden’s horse. Shows just what a good guy Selden was.
Last week, Perinton and Pittsford filled the halls to hear my “Failure is Impossible” reenactment of Susan B. Anthony. One of the highlights of that talk is a discussion of her arguments about why she should vote. It was great to have a full house and especially fun to entertain people’s thoughts and questions afterwards. Thanks to everyone who attended!
She probably would not have attempted voting had not the U.S. recently passed two equal rights amendments within the previous decade. Let’s talk about them now.
Today is the anniversary of the 1868 adoption of the 14th amendment, the one that Susan B. Anthony claimed gave her the right to vote as a woman. Following on the boots of the Civil War, this law amendment gave African-Americans the rights of citizenship and decreed that all citizens should have their rights protected. Two years later, the 15th amendment passed, giving African-Americans the right to vote.
What the Amendments Say
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed. In addition, it forbids states from denying any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
However, the fine print said that adult male citizens should be protected; it did not specifically say that adult females should.
The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”.
Why Susan B. Anthony Argued That She Should Vote
Studying these two amendments carefully with a noted Constitutional scholar, Susan deduced that they meant this:
Under the 14th amendment, she was a citizen and should have her rights protected.
The 15th amendment specifically protected her citizen’s right to vote. It did not say that she, as a woman, could not vote.
Unfortunately, as we know, the judge who ruled on her case did not agree with her interpretation, and found her “guilty of the crime of voting as a woman.”
Soon you can read all about it in my newly-revised book, Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All.I’ll be posting order information on this Suffrage Centennial edition of my 1994 biography of Susan.
What an exciting week it was in upstate New York as VoteTilla made its way from Seneca Falls to Rochester. I met up with the canal boats on a gorgeous day in Fairport (my hometown) and had a chance to greet several old friends who were traveling with the fleet in costume.
In addition to all the excellent programming done by VoteTilla itself, the libraries and town historical societies put on wonderful programs, including debates, author signings, children’s activities, and more. I had the privilege of presenting my reenactment of Susan B. Anthony to full houses at both the Fairport and Pittsford libraries. Thanks to all those who attended and asked great questions! And special thanks to Vicki Masters Profitt and Mary Ann
Saturday, August 12, Arnett Branch Library, “Failure is Impossible,” noon
Votetilla is a weeklong celebration of New York State’s ratification of the 19th (Susan B. Anthony) Amendment in 1917. I love that this event actually occurs on boats on the Erie Canal, since that is how the Anthony family arrived in New York State in 1845.
How Votetilla Works
Sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House and numerous other organizations, the boats get underway in Seneca Falls, the birthplace of women’s rights, and stop in numerous canal towns (including Fairport and Pittsford). After disembarking in Rochester, It culminates with a festive street parade to the Susan B. Anthony House on Madison Street.
I enjoy re-enacting Susan and have been doing it for more than 20 years, ever since I volunteered at her house as a docent. This talk covers the highlights of her life including her illegal vote and trial and her relationship with Frederick Douglass. Enjoy the talk against a wonderful backdrop of authentic 19th century images.
Centennial Edition of Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All
In 1994, I published a children’s biography of Susan by the name of Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All. Watch this space for a special centennial edition with updates to commemorate the 19th amendment granting women the vote across all the states in the U.S.