Susan B Anthony: Pro-Life Feminist

By Mathewes-Green, Frederica | The Human Life Review, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

Susan B Anthony: Pro-Life Feminist


Mathewes-Green, Frederica, The Human Life Review


APPENDIX I

[Frederica Mathewes-Green, author of Real Choices: Listening to Women, Looking for Alternatives to Abortion (Conciliar Press, 1997) is a columnist for Christianity Today and a commentator on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered." The following first appeared in Focus on the Family magazine (Jan. 2000) and is reprinted with permission.]

The icon of modern-day feminism would be horrified at what is being done in her name

Susan B. Anthony is a hero of the feminist movement, and with good cause: She was a trailblazer in the women's movement in the late 1800s. A Quaker who never married, Anthony devoted her energy first to the abolition of slavery and then to women's equality at the ballot box. She and other early feminists believed that the power of the vote was the key to fulfilling all other goals.

Willing to go to jail for what she believed, Anthony illegally cast a ballot in the 1872 presidential election and was arrested. Regard for her by modern-day advocates of women's rights led to the production of the Susan B. Anthony $1 coin in 1979.

A "most monstrous crime"

There is, however, one thing these advocates don't know about Anthony, something that might temper their adoration. Susan B. Anthony was pro-life.

How could a feminist be pro-life? Simple: Abortion hurts women. Anthony and her friends knew this, and in fact the feminist movement did not support abortion until the 1970s.

A hundred years ago Anthony wrote an essay in her publication, The Revolution, about the "horrible crime of child-murder." "She was considering specifically the tragedy of abortion within marriage, wherein a pregnant wife "destroys the little being, she thinks, before it lives."

Anthony wanted to "eradicate this most monstrous crime" but feared that laws alone would not be sufficient: "We must reach the root of the evil and destroy it." Anthony wrote about this evil with passion: "Guilty? Yes, no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh! Thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification, heedless of her prayers, indifferent to her fate, drove her to the desperation which impels her to the crime. …

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