Susan B. Anthony
Susan B Anthony fought all her life to bring equal rights to everyone, whether they were black or white, woman or man. During her lifetime, her efforts helped to change the United States Constitution to better protect people: the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery; the 14th amendment, which guaranteed equal protection under the law; and the 15th amendment, which extended the right to vote to all. Unfortunately, the 14th and 15th amendment rights were not in practice granted to women. It was not until long after her death that the 19th amendment was passed to guarantee the right to vote to women. But so strong was her influence in fighting for women's rights, that the amendment was widely called the Susan B. Anthony amendment.
In 1936 a stamp was issued in her honor, not just for obtaining the right to vote but for many other rights she gained for women, such as the right to study in college to be a doctor or lawyer, the right to keep money for themselves that they had earned, the right to sign contracts even if married, and the right to joint custody of their children after a divorce.
Anthony was born into a Quaker family where the determination of the parents to help others was passed down to all the children. Her brothers worked in Kansas around 1850 to abolish slavery. As a teenager, Anthony was active in gathering signatures for a petition to abolish the so-called gag rules in the United States House of Representatives, which did not allow slavery to even be discussed.
People such as Anthony who worked to abolish slavery were called Abolitionists, and she became one of the most famous and effective. While the civil war brought about the legal end of slavery (13th amendment), in practice many people of color could not exercise their rights because gangs of citizens would terrorize them. Thirty years after the civil war Anthony attacked the lynch mobs in numerous publications.
But women were not held to have equal rights guaranteed by the 14th amendment, nor the right to vote guaranteed by the 15th. Few women could hold property, and if they earned any wages, they belonged to their husbands. Furthermore, the jobs available to them, except for teaching, largely involved unskilled labor. Colleges which taught advanced science, engineering and medicine were closed to them as well.
If a marriage ended in divorce, women rarely were allowed custody of the children. In one famous case, Anthony protested a judge granting custody of Abby McFarland's child to her ex-husband who had murdered her new husband. This led to Anthony's continued use of the skills she learned fighting for freedom for slaves, to fighting for equality for women.
During her life, she was personally attacked and jeered for her positions. For example, in Syracuse in 1856 a dummy was made up to look like her and hung from a tree, then pulled through the streets. She was often arrested for her actions to obtain the right to vote for women, but she never gave up. She was a prolific writer and speaker, and her ideas proved impossible to suppress. She continues to inspire the current generation to never give up in their struggles for freedom.
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