As we continue to examine lessons of leadership, we focus on the life of Susan B. Anthony, a social reformer and activist in the 1800’s in the United States. She is largely credited with leading the movement that earned women the right to vote, which resulted in an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She also started her own movements to end slavery in the United States.
She was born in 1820 to a family with long activist traditions. She developed a sense of justice and moral zeal at a very early age. She collected signatures on petitions to end slavery at the early age of 17. She and a colleague, Elizabeth Stanton, in 1852 conducted the largest petition drive ever in United States history at that time, collecting almost 400,000 signatures to end slavery and change views. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified after the Civil War in 1865, abolishing slavery.
She joined the women’s rights movement in 1852 and passionately led campaigns for women’s voting rights. In 1860, largely as the result of her efforts, the New York State Married Women’s Property Bill became law, allowing married women to own property, keep their own wages, and have custody of their children. In 1872, Susan was arrested for voting in her hometown since women were not allowed to vote. She refused to pay the fine. She co-wrote a six-volume book on the history of woman’s voting rights in 1876. In 1878, Anthony and Stanton succeeded in getting a U.S. Congressman to present an amendment to give women the right to vote. It remained in Congress for many years.
While Anthony had long been rejected and severely criticized for her campaigns to support full citizenship for slaves and women, on her 80th birthday she was invited to the White House to celebrate her contributions.
Susan Anthony died in 1906, fourteen years before her work succeeded with the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote. In 1976, Susan B. Anthony became the first woman in U.S. history to have her face on a coin.
We share some of her quotes.
“It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people — women as well as men.”
“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation.”
“I’d rather make history than write it.”