Who was Susan B. Anthony’s sister Hannah?

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Susan B. Anthony’s sister Hannah Anthony Mosher was the next younger child in Susan’s birth family of four girls and two boys. The Anthony sisters formed a powerful impetus to woman suffrage and created bonds that lasted beyond death.

After their father Daniel’s catastrophic financial losses in the panic of 1838, the older sisters went into teaching and sent money home to help the rest of the family. Guelma, the oldest sister, married first. Before Hannah’s marriage to Frank Mosher in 1845, Susan helped her make a Feathered Star quilt

Image by Jessie Ziegler

When Susan, Merritt, and Mary moved with their parents to Rochester, NY, Hannah and Guelma stayed behind with their husbands. The Rochester Anthonys moved to a farm and soon after brother Daniel Read (D.R.) Anthony moved in with them. Within a decade, both he and Merritt moved to Kansas.

Reunited in Rochester

Susan must have been delighted when the Moshers relocated with their four children to Rochester in the late 1850s, taking up residence at #19 Madison Street. Not long after, the Anthonys from the farm moved in to #17 next door to the Moshers. Eventually, Guelma and her family shared  #17.

#17 Madison Street, which was home to Susan, Mary, Guelma, and many others in the Anthony family. At the far right, you can see the porch of #19, home of Hannah and Frank Mosher. Photo by Jeanne Gehret.

As I’ve noted before, all four of Susan B. Anthony’s sisters voted with her in 1872 and were arrested for it. At the time they committed this alleged crime, Guelma was suffering from consumption (tuberculosis), which took her life in 1873. By that time, Hannah, too, was showing signs of the deadly disease.

In the second half of the 19th century, consumption was killing 1/7 of the people in Europe and the U.S. It got its name by causing its sufferers to lose a lot of body weight. It would be another two decades before Robert Koch discovered that it was contracted through bacteria.

Seeking a cure

Not wanting to lose her, D.R. and Susan prevailed on Hannah to seek her health in the west, as many Americans were doing at the time.

Hannah spent several weeks in Denver trying to get better. When she didn’t improve, she went to stay with D.R. and Annie in Leavenworth, KS. Frank and the children visited her there. Distraught, Susan canceled her speaking engagements to keep vigil by Hannah’s deathbed in 1877. Hannah was buried in Leavenworth in the Anthony plot.

Shortly afterward, Hannah’s daughter Louise went to live with Mary Anthony (and Susan) in Rochester, where she remained until she finished her schooling. Thus, the bonds among the sisters extended to Louise’s care after Hannah died. Sadly, only one of Susan B. Anthony’s sisters remained.

On the occasion of Hannah’s death, Susan’s authorized biography said,   

“Between herself [Susan] and this sister, just nineteen months younger, beautiful in character and strong in affection, there ever had existed the closest sympathy. For the last decade they had been separated only by a dooryard, they had shared each other’s every joy and sorrow . . . .”

ida husted harper, life and work of Susan b. anthony, vol 1, p. 488

The Anthony influence also endured in Hannah’s three sons who, following their Uncle D.R.’s example, worked in the insurance business for the rest of their lives.