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March 5, 2024 7 mins

Susan B. Anthony went from a radical arrested for placing a vote to an honoree on U.S. currency within a century. Learn more about her life and work in both abolition and women's suffrage in this episode of BrainStuff, based on this article: https://history.howstuffworks.com/historical-figures/susan-b-anthony.htm

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Brainstuff, a production of iHeartRadio. Hey, Brainstuff. Lauren
Vogelbaum Here. It's been more than one hundred years since
American women gained the right to vote with the passage
of the nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and we cannot
discuss the nineteenth Amendment and the women's suffrage movement without
talking about one of its most central figures, Susan B. Anthony.

(00:26):
The amendment was named the Anthony Amendment in her honor,
and years later, Anthony's stern image found a home on
the United States dollar coin, replacing President Dwight Eisenhower. So
how in one century did the woman who claimed failure
is impossible go from espousing revolutionary ideas to becoming an

(00:47):
honoree on US currency. Born in Adams, Massachusetts, on February
fifteenth of eighteen twenty, Anthony spent most of her childhood
in New York. Her father's Quaker upbringing I pressed upon
her the belief that everyone is equal under God. She
worked as a teacher in upstate New York during her
twenties before returning home, where she became involved in the

(01:09):
abolition movement, working alongside important figures like William Lloyd Garrison
and Frederick Douglas. Along with abolishing slavery, Anthony also sought
to rid the country of alcohol. She and her family
were active in the temperance movement. Oh When she was
denied the chance to speak at a Temperance meeting because
she was a woman, she partnered with Elizabeth Catty Stanton

(01:31):
and founded the Women's New York State Temperance Society in
eighteen fifty three. She had met Stanton, who had become
a lifelong friend and collaborator, at an anti slavery conference
the previous year. At that point, Stanton had already given
her famed Declaration of Sentiments speech at the Seneca Falls
Convention in eighteen forty eight. Anthony continued to be active

(01:52):
in both movements. For example, during the Civil War, she
helped collect more than three hundred thousand signatures on petitions
to abolish slavery with the Constitutional Amendment. After the war,
Anthony and Stanton founded the American Equal Rights Association in
eighteen sixty six, an organization initially aiming to secure equal
rights and voting rights for all black and white men

(02:15):
and women in America, but the Reconstruction era was a
sticky political time, there were fissures in the suffrage movement,
with disagreement among activists over whether to focus on the
easier goal of attaining black men's rights first and then
working on getting women the vote. Anthony's biographer, a contemporary

(02:35):
journalist by the name of Ida Husted Harper, wrote that
Anthony said she would sooner cut off her right arm
before she would ever work for or demand the ballot
for the black man and not the woman. The split
between the suffrage movement was deep, as are the roots
of racism in America. Anthony and Stanton chose to oppose

(02:56):
the Fifteenth Amendment, which eventually did give black men the
right to vote in eighteen seventy. Other activists like Douglas
and Lucy Stone decried their decision, and the American Equal
Rights Association disbanded. In eighteen sixty nine, Anthony and Stanton
formed the more radical National Woman Suffrage Association, and Lucy

(03:19):
Stone started rival group, the American Woman Suffrage Association. A
Stone in her group supported the fifteenth Amendment as a
step in the right direction and focused on a state
by state strategy to gain voting rights for women. By contrast,
Anthony and Stanton's group sought voting and other rights for women,
and a federal constitutional amendment to ensure them. Sort of

(03:42):
a side note, Anthony was also an adopter of reform dress,
which consisted of wearing bloomers and a shorter dress instead
of the cumbersome woman's ensemble of the period, which could
weigh up to twenty five pounds that's about eleven kilos.
She even cut her hair short, but after criticism, Anthony
determined that the dress distracted from the message and gave
it up. Although she never had the opportunity to vote legally,

(04:07):
Anthony cast a ballot in the eighteen seventy two presidential
election of voting for Ulysses S. Grant. For this criminal act,
she was arrested, tried, and fined one hundred dollars. She
never paid the fine. Anthony died in nineteen oh six,
fourteen years before the amendment she wanted was ratified. Before it,

(04:28):
amendments allowing for income tax the sixteenth of the Popular
Election of Senators the seventeenth and prohibition the eighteenth were
added to the Constitution. Although several states had already legalized
women's suffrage, on a national level, women gained the right
to vote with the Nineteenth Amendments, passing on August eighteenth
of nineteen twenty. It reads, the right of citizens of

(04:51):
the United States to vote shall not be denied or
abridged by the United States or by any State on
account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this
Article by pro legislation. Of course, merely having the law
in place didn't make accessing that right easy for everyone.
Native Americans weren't recognized as US citizens with voting access

(05:13):
until the Snyder Act of nineteen twenty four, and all
kinds of legal and social restrictions in the Jim Crow
South excluded black women and men from the polls until
the Voting Rights Act of nineteen sixty five. But back
to Anthony for her contributions to the passage of what
became the Nineteenth Amendment. Anthony was the first non mythical

(05:35):
woman to appear on a US coin. Figures like Miss
Columbia and Lady Liberty had appeared on coins in the
eighteen hundreds, and First Lady Martha Washington appeared on paper
notes around the same time, but the Susan B. Anthony
dollar was issued by the United States Mint in nineteen
seventy nine to replace the Eisenhower Dollar. At that time,

(05:55):
the second wave of the women's movement was underway and
the academic discipline of women's studies was in its infancy.
A Choosing Anthony as a founding figure for the movement
and for the dollar coin emerged as a logical choice
because she had been so committed to suffrage for so long. However,
with a modest marketing campaign surrounding its launch and the

(06:16):
coins similarity in size to a quarter, her dollar was
considered a flop within months, which was probably more related
to the coin itself than to Anthony's image being on it.
A suffragist, abolitionist, Tito Toller, and renegade, Anthony never married
or had children. And in case you're wondering, the bee

(06:37):
in Susan B. Anthony is for Brownell. There was a
bit of a fad from middle initials during her youth,
and she adopted the bee in honor of the aunt
she had been named after, whose married name was Susan Brownell.
Today's episode is based on the article Susan B. Anthony, Suffragist,
Abolitionist and Renegade on hostuffworks dot Com, written by Kerry Whitney.

(07:01):
Brainstuff is production by Heart Radio in partnership with how
stuffworks dot Com and is produced by Tyler Klang. Former
podcasts from my heart Radio visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,
or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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