Susan B. Anthony
Women's Equality Day
Women's Equality Day is proclaimed each year by the United States President to commemorate the granting of the vote to women throughout the country. Women in the United States were granted the right to vote on August 26, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was certified.
Matilda Joslyn Gage
Matilda Joslyn Gage was a suffragist, a Native American activist, an abolitionist, a free thinker, a prolific author, and self-described as “a natural hatred for oppression.” Even though her life was plagued by both financial and physical (cardiac) problems, she devoted it to reaching true equality for all. She became involved in the Women’s Rights movement in 1852 when she spoke at the National Women’s Rights Convention in Syracuse, NY. She served as president of the National Woman Suffrage Association from 1875 to 1876, and during the 1876 convention, she successfully argued against a group of police who claimed the association was holding an illegal assembly. Gage is considered more radical than Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton because of her criticism of the Christian church. In 1871, Gage and a group of 9 other women attempted to vote, and when they were denied, she argued with the polling officials on behalf of each woman, and in 1873 defended Susan B. Anthony when Anthony was placed on trial for voting in the election. In 1884, Gage was an Elector-At-Large for the Equal Rights Party. She also founded the Women’s National Liberal Union, and in 1893 she published Woman, Church and State, a book which outlined the variety of ways in which Christianity had oppressed women and reinforced patriarchal systems.
Lucy Burns was an American suffragist and women’s rights activist. She traveled to England during her time in graduate school, where she met Emmaline Pankhurst, and was so inspired by her activism that she dropped out of her graduate studies to stay with her and join the cause. Upon return to the U.S., she joined the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA), but when her methods caused tension between her and NAWSA, she and her colleagues formed the National Women’s Party. Burns made a radical proposal once again at the 1913 NAWSA convention in Washington, D.C. Because Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress at the time, Burns wanted to give them an ultimatum—support our bill for suffrage or we will make sure you don’t get reelected. Wilson eventually reneged on his vow to support Women’s Suffrage, but the pressure was on. Burns was arrested while picketing the White House, and sent to Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. Being in prison didn’t stop her activism—she regularly organized protests with other prisoners. After she was released, she was quickly rearrested for protesting the White House again, and upon her third arrest in 1917, the judge aimed to make an example of Burns, and she was given the maximum sentence. Once again a prisoner at Occoquan Workhouse, Lucy Burns endured what is remembered as the “Night of Terror.” The women were treated brutally and were refused medical attention. Of the well-known suffragists of the time, Burns spent the most time in jail. After the women of the United States gained the right to vote, Burns retired from political life and devoted herself to the Catholic Church and her orphaned niece.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a social activist, abolitionist, and a leader in the Women’s Rights movement. She was the principal author of the Declaration of Sentiments presented at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. Though she eventually dedicated herself almost exclusively to the cause of women’s suffrage, she had been involved in a number of social justice causes. Stanton was formally educated at Johnstown Academy, where she was also in some co-educational classes, and upon graduation went on to Troy Female Seminary in Troy, NY. She married Henry Brewster Stanton, a fellow activist she had met through her involvement in the Temperance and Abolition movements, though she asked the minister to remove the phrase “promise to obey” from her wedding vows, saying “I obstinately refused to obey one with whom I supposed I was entering into an equal relation.” Stanton firmly believed that women should have command over their sexual relationships and childbearing. Stanton was a prolific author and activist until her death in 1902.
Alice Paul was an activist and suffragette. Paul attended Swarthmore College before receiving her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She learned about the suffragist movement after spending a time in England. In 1909, Paul and a fellow suffragette disguised themselves as cleaning women within the hall in which a banquet was being held for the Prime Minister and most of the cabinet. It was when the Prime Minister stood up in order to deliver his speech that Paul and the other suffragette threw their shoes and broke stain glass windows in order to gain the people’s attention and began to scream “Votes for women!” When she returned to the U.S., she joined the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and was appointed Chairwoman of their Congressional Committee. When her methods caused tension between her and NAWSA, she and her colleagues formed the National Women’s Party. In January 1917, the NWP staged the first political protest to picket the White House. The picketers, known as "Silent Sentinels," held banners demanding the right to vote. In July of the same year, Paul and other picketers were arrested for “obstructing traffic,” and incarcerated at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. In a protest of the conditions in Occoquan, Paul commenced a hunger strike, which led to her being moved to the prison’s psychiatric ward and force-fed raw eggs through a feeding tube. Her actions inside of jail as well as out kept pressure on President Wilson, who in 1918 encouraged Congress to pass women’s suffrage—in 1920 they finally did. Paul was also the author of the original Equal Rights Amendment in 1923.
Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony was a prominent American civil rights leader—an activist on behalf of the Temperance movement, the Abolitionist movement, and (most notably) the Women’s Suffrage movement. She co-founded the women’s rights journal The Revolution, and was an excellent public speaker on behalf of all her causes. On November 18, 1872, Anthony was arrested for voting in the presidential election two weeks earlier. The penalty was a $100 fine, which Anthony never paid. In 1869, Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Women’s Suffrage Association, and was a collaborator in the publishing of The History of Women’s Suffrage. She is also responsible for women being admitted to the University of Rochester.