These are the words author/researcher Ann Malaspina uses to describe the legal practice of denying women the right to vote in 1872. Even though women could own property, pay taxes, hold a job, and raise children they could not participate in elections.
When Susan B. Anthony challenged this practice, she also used three profound words to state her intent: “Failure is impossible.”
In a juvenile book with gorgeous illustrations by Steve James, Malaspina details the amazing life of the founder of the women’s voting rights, Susan B. Anthony:
* Because of a new law, the 14th Amendment to the constitution, all persons born in the United States have the same right as citizens. She told the men at the registration table she is a person and citizen. Therefore, she should have the right to vote.
* After arguments with inspectors, she finally registered to vote.
* On Election Day, November 5, 1872, Anthony raced to the polls and cast her vote at seven a.m. She had voted for a president!
But trouble was brewing . . .
* On November 18, 1872, a deputy federal marshal stepped into her parlor intending to arrest her. She demanded that she be arrested properly, but he wouldn’t handcuff a lady.
* In January 1873, Miss Anthony was ordered to pay one thousand dollars or go to jail until her trial.
* She refused to pay. She didn’t want to give the court a dime.
* As the trial grew closer, she argued her case all over the country: Washington, D. C., Philadelphia, Chicago. She visited Kansas, Oregon, and California.
* At the trial, the judge pulled a paper from his pocket: “The fourteenth Amendment gives no right to a woman to vote,” he argued.
*But she persisted. The next day, the judge allowed her a final word. She rose to her feet and delivered these words with a punch:
“You have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored.”
* The judge banged his gavel and ordered Miss Anthony to pay one hundred dollars plus court costs.
* Finally, as a person and as a citizen, she told the judge, “May it please Your Honor, ”I will never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.”
And Susan B. Anthony never did.
At her 86th birthday celebration in 1906 in Washington, D. C. Anthony remained determined to secure women’s right to vote. “Failure is impossible,” she declared.
A new generation pushed the movement forward and finally Congress passed The Nineteenth Amendment on June 4, 1919. “That November, twenty-six million women cast their vote for president.”
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Born February 1820 to a Quaker family where women were considered relatively “equal to men,” Susan B. Anthony left her stamp on history.
Also, her image is imprinted on a dollar minted from 1979 – 1981.
An energetic, self-disciplined teacher, she was refused permission to speak at a teachers’ convention and at a temperance convention, prompting her to focus on women’s rights. Early on, social injustice galvanized her to action.
In 1890, she led the National Women’s Suffrage Movement.
Determined and focused, she traveled far and wide to champion voting rights for women: Kansas, Louisiana, Georgia and as far west as Oregon and California.
Called “The Napoleon of the woman’s rights movement,” she moved to Washington every winter to lobby Congress. Later, Ms. Anthony rallied for international efforts for women. Even Queen Victoria asked to meet her.
She died in 1906, regrettably fourteen years before women were officially given the right to vote, 1920.
I hope you will exercise your right to vote this November election. It’s a privilege we dare not take for granted.
If you live in another country that extends voting rights, you can exercise this right as well.
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Bonus: Remember Geena Davis from “Thelma and Louise”? She is letting her voice be heard in another arena. Check here to find out more.
Your thoughts and opinions are worth more than the 3-cent postage stamp pictured here. Or the dollar on which her image appeared.
Thanks for sharing in this column.
Coming next: Aunt Ruthie Longenecker, Birthdays to Remember