(1820-1906), radical egalitarian of woman's right
KATHLEEN L. BARRY
Susan B. Anthony's public career as a spokeswoman for and leader of the woman's rights movement spanned fifty-six years--the entire second half of the nineteenth century into the early years of the twentieth. During that time, she witnessed small gains for women, such as slowly evolving access to higher education, and large losses, such as repeated defeats of constitutional amendments granting women suffrage. In the 1840s, her early career as a school teacher eventually led her into public speaking on temperance issues. In the early 1850s, she discovered her talent for arousing women to action in their own behalf as she built organizational structures from local societies to state and national associations. She increased opportunities for women to speak in public by organizing national woman's rights conventions and petition campaigns throughout the 1850s, even after many women activists had returned to their family responsibilities.
By the time of her arrest in 1872 for voting, Anthony had gained recognition as the charismatic leader of efforts for woman's rights. By the 1880s, she had taken her campaigns to Europe and laid the foundation for an international movement. From then until her death in 1906, in both her organizing efforts and her lectures, her focus was on women's political power through suffrage. Recognized for giving her life to the cause of women's emancipation, by the turn of the century she had become the international spokesperson of woman's rights.
Nothing in Anthony's early life presaged her extraordinary and, for many of the early years, notorious public career as the leader of woman's rights. Her name would become synonymous with the cause. She retained a charismatic appeal because she came to be viewed as embodying the very liberation she fought for in behalf of women. And yet she was an ordinary woman who was born in 1820 to a rural Massachusetts Quaker family, the third of six children. Her father was a strong temperance man who turned from farming to become one of the early developers of the northeastern cotton mills that ushered the Industrial Revolution into the United States. Quakerism made family life austere even when the family economy improved. When Anthony was seventeen, her father lost his business and even the family household possessions in an economic crash. To remove herself as an economic burden to her family, Anthony went out to teach, bringing her own rudimentary education to a halt. After ten years in the classroom, she delivered her first speech in 1849 in the small village of