Today's Monday Mourning is mine. Here in the States we are in the midst of an election year. It's pretty hard to miss. There are signs in my neighbors' yards. My Facebook feed is filled with it. It's in the headlines every single day. And it's been wearing on me a bit.
Lately my husband and I have had many conversations about the issues and the candidates. That's unusual for us. We don't usually talk politics with anyone, even each other. This season, it's just really hard to avoid.
He recently pointed out to me that women vote in higher numbers than men do. They have in every presidential election since 1980 and the gap widens each time. I didn't realize that and it surprised me. It got me thinking about how far we've come in such a short time (less than 100 years) and how hard women fought for our right to vote. Perhaps we vote more because we haven't always had the right and the struggle for equality is still an issue for us. That led me to Susan B. Anthony.
On November 1, 1872, Susan B. Anthony led a group of women, including her three sisters, to a voter registration office in Rochester, N.Y., and demanded that they be allowed to register under the protections of the 14th Amendment. Women in other parts of the country did the same, but they would not have the success of Anthony.
Anthony did not anticipate that she would be allowed to vote. Rather, “she expected to be denied registration as a voter and subsequently to sue for her right to vote in federal court.”
Election inspectors initially refused to register Anthony, but she argued for over an hour. Finally, after threatening to take the matter to court, she convinced the election inspectors to register her and other 14 women.
“She asked me if was acquainted with the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the U.S. I told her I was,” recounted Mr. Beverly Jones, an inspector. “She wanted to know if under that, she was a citizen and had the right to vote. At this time, Mr. Warner, the election supervisor, said, Young man, how are you going to get around that? I think you will have to register their names.”
Four days later, Anthony arrived at the West End News Depot in Rochester to cast her votes. Two of the three inspectors voted to allow the votes, making them official.
In a letter to Stanton, she wrote, “Well I have been & gone & done it!! … If only now—all the women suffrage women would work to this end of enforcing the existing constitution—supremacy of national law over state law—what strides we might make this winter.”
On November 14, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Anthony and the 14 other women for voting “without having a lawful right to vote.” The three election inspectors would also be arrested.
Four days later, a deputy marshal visited Anthony’s home and asked that she turn herself in. However, she demanded that she be “arrested properly,” forcing the deputy to handcuff her. In January 1873, a grand jury indicted Anthony.
Out on bail, Anthony toured through towns around Rochester, giving speeches on women’s rights. “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,” she proclaimed. “And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government—the ballot.”
Anthony never gave up on her fight for women's suffrage. In 1905, she met with President Theodore Roosevelt in Washington, D.C., to lobby for an amendment to give women the right to vote. She died the following year, on March 13, 1906, at the age of 86, at her home in Rochester, New York. According to her obituary in The New York Times, shortly before her death, Anthony told friend Anna Shaw, "To think I have had more than 60 years of hard struggle for a little liberty, and then to die without it seems so cruel."
It wouldn't be until 14 years after Anthony's death—in 1920—that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving all adult women the right to vote, was passed.