Anthony, Susan B.

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) dedicated her life to the causes of abolition and woman suffrage. She was one of Rochester‘s leading anti-slavery activists; she collaborated with Harriet Tubman on the Underground Railroad. She was a close friend and frequent collaborator of escaped slave-turned-anti-slavery icon Frederick Douglass, another Rochester resident. From 1851 until her death in 1906 she was at the forefront of the women’s rights movement. With Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage, Anthony co-led the National Woman Suffrage Association, the radical wing of the movement, through some of its most productive years; later, the three women (known as "the triumvirate") co-wrote the multi-volume History of Woman Suffrage.

Anthony was more conciliatory -- some would say pragmatic -- in matters of religion than Stanton or Gage. Unlike them, Anthony never blamed the Christian church for institutionalizing the oppression of women; late in her career, she even welcomed the extremely conservative Women’s Christian Temperance Union into the suffrage movement, causing an enduring split among suffrage activists.

Anthony’s goal of total women’s suffrage was finally achieved only after her death, in 1920, with the Nineteenth Amendment. In tribute to her leadership it was sometimes referred to as the "Susan B. Anthony Amendment."

Among the members of the suffrage movement’s leadership “triumvirate,” Anthony – though privately a freethinker – was the most accommodating toward religion. History’s treatment of Anthony, Stanton, and Gage is quite revealing. Early twentieth-century suffragists tended to look back on Anthony as the sole founding leader of the suffrage movement. Stanton, who revealed her infidel views late in life after having already established her reputation as a suffragist, was almost forgotten until her rediscovery by second-wave feminists of the 1960s. Gage, who had been critical of religion throughout her suffrage career, was largely forgotten by history until the mid-1990s, when her memory was rehabilitated largely through the efforts of feminist scholar Sally Roesch Wagner.

Susan B. Anthony was honored on the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin, introduced in 1979.