Susan B. Anthony


Portrait of Susan B. Anthony

For suffrage leaders like Susan B. Anthony, public speaking was a way to increase awareness about women’s inequality, convince others to act in their behalf, and raise money to support their cause. Speakers adjusted their message and tone for different audiences, putting forth a range of arguments meant to appeal to a variety of listeners.

A fundamental truth of the women’s rights movement, expressed in the Declaration of Sentiments (1848), was that “all men and women are created equal.” Thus, speakers often reasoned that, being equal, women were entitled to “all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States.” Any laws that prevented women from exercising these rights—like those that limited their participation in government—were unjust and needed to be changed.

While white suffragists demanded inclusion in the basic principles on which the country was founded, black suffragists reminded them and others of the need to simultaneously address the persistent racial discrimination that compounded their oppression.

The call for equality and justice was radical in that it challenged men’s long-standing legal authority over women. Those who feared disrupting the traditional social order were not convinced by this approach. Therefore, suffragists also put forward arguments that spoke to the expediency—or usefulness—of allowing women to vote. In this approach, suffragists focused not on the similarities between women and men but on the differences. This tactic emphasized women’s feminine traits and argued that women possessed a unique perspective on social and domestic issues.

Expediency arguments led to suffrage victories in the West and were used to appeal to everyone from social reformers and Progressive-era activists, who liked the idea that women would use the vote to improve the human condition, to white supremacists and nativists, who sought to increase the ranks of white and non-immigrant voters. Although there was a general shift over time from radical, justice-based arguments to more moderate (and even conservative or reactionary) expediency arguments, suffrage strategists used both approaches to attract supporters throughout the course of the movement.


Letter from Susan B. Anthony to Rachel Foster Avery, Washington, D.C., January 12, 1889.

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Letter from Susan B. Anthony to Rachel Foster Avery, Washington, D.C., January 12, 1889. 

Anthony describes her arrival in Washington D.C. and the debate, presumably surrounding the merging of the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association, lamenting that they:

"Have had a whole year to think it over and I do not want to be hung by the gills another year hence I write her that I shall do all in my power to secure final action so far as the National is concerned. We know what we would [sic] do just as well now as we shall after facing another twelve months and so I write Mary she must get here Saturday the 19th."

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History of Woman Suffrage

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Produced in six volumes from 1881-1922, History of Woman Suffrage documents the movement’s presence in the United States. Written by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida Husted Harper, and others associated with the National Woman Suffrage Association, the volumes are both personal and public in their chronicling of the experiences of women.


Letter from Susan B. Anthony to the editor of the Chicago Tribune 

The handwritten letter explains to the editor of the Chicago Tribune that the History of Woman's Suffrage was the most important book for people to read. 

December 20, 1900 

National - American Woman Suffrage Association


Susan B. Anthony silver dollar

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Susan B. Anthony $1 coins were minted from 1979-1981, and again from 1999-2000. The coin was originally designed with an allegorical image of Lady Liberty, but Congress, the League of Women Voters, the National Organization for Women, and the Congresswoman's Caucus all fought to have Susan B. Anthony replace Lady Liberty.


A 50th birthday gift to Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony received this gold rose brooch as a gift on her 50th birthday (1870) from Kate Daggert of Chicago. It can be seen decorating her collar in photographs from her later years.


Susan B. Anthony's dress

A dress worn by Susan B. Anthony.