A Celebration of Women Writers

"Chapter XI." by Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)
From: Eighty Years And More: Reminiscences 1815-1897 (1898) by Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


SUSAN B. ANTHONY.–Continued.

IT was in 1852 that anti-slavery, through the eloquent lips of such men as George Thompson, Phillips, and Garrison, first proclaimed to Miss Anthony its pressing financial necessities. To their inspired words she gave answer, four years afterward, by becoming a regularly employed agent in the Anti-slavery Society. For her espoused cause she has always made boldest demands. In the abolition meetings she used to tell each class why it should support the movement financially; invariably calling upon Democrats to give liberally, as the success of the cause would enable them to cease bowing the knee to the slave power.

There is scarce a town, however small, from New York to San Francisco, that has not heard her ringing voice. Who can number the speeches she has made on lyceum platforms, in churches, schoolhouses, halls, barns, and in the open air, with a lumber wagon or a cart for her rostrum? Who can describe the varied audiences and social circles she has cheered and interested? Now we see her on the far-off prairies, entertaining, with sterling common sense, large gatherings of men, women, and children, seated on rough boards in some unfinished building; again, holding public debates in some town with half-fledged editors and clergymen; next, sailing up the Columbia River and, in hot haste to meet some appointment, jolting over the rough mountains of Oregon and Washington; and then, before legislative assemblies, constitutional conventions, and congressional committees, discussing with senators and judges the letter and spirit of constitutional law.

Miss Anthony's style of speaking is rapid and vehement. In debate she is ready and keen, and she is always equal to an emergency. Many times in traveling with her through the West, especially on our first trip to Kansas and California, we were suddenly called upon to speak to the women assembled at the stations. Filled with consternation, I usually appealed to her to go first; and, without a moment's hesitation, she could always fill five minutes with some appropriate words and inspire me with thoughts and courage to follow. The climax of these occasions was reached in an institution for the deaf and dumb in Michigan. I had just said to my friend, "There is one comfort in visiting this place; we shall not be asked to speak," when the superintendent, approaching us, said, "Ladies, the pupils are assembled in the chapel, ready to hear you. I promised to invite you to speak to them as soon as I heard you were in town." The possibility of addressing such an audience was as novel to Miss Anthony as to me; yet she promptly walked down the aisle to the platform, as if to perform an ordinary duty, while I, half distracted with anxiety, wondering by what process I was to be placed in communication with the deaf and dumb, reluctantly followed. But the manner was simple enough, when illustrated. The superintendent, standing by our side, repeated, in the sign language, what was said as fast as uttered; and by laughter, tears, and applause, the pupils showed that they fully appreciated the pathos, humor, and argument.

One night, crossing the Mississippi at McGregor, Iowa, we were icebound in the middle of the river. The boat was crowded with people, hungry, tired, and cross with the delay. Some gentlemen, with whom we had been talking on the cars, started the cry, "Speech on woman suffrage!" Accordingly, in the middle of the Mississippi River, at midnight, we presented our claims to political representation, and debated the question of universal suffrage until we landed. Our voyagers were quite thankful that we had shortened the many hours, and we equally so at having made several converts and held a convention on the very bosom of the great "Mother of Waters." Only once in all these wanderings was Miss Anthony taken by surprise, and that was on being asked to speak to the inmates of an insane asylum. "Bless me!" said she, "it is as much as I can do to talk to the sane! What could I say to an audience of lunatics?" Her companion, Virginia L. Minor of St. Louis, replied: "This is a golden moment for you, the first opportunity you have ever had, according to the constitutions, to talk to your 'peers,' for is not the right of suffrage denied to 'idiots, criminals, lunatics, and women'?"

Much curiosity has been expressed as to the love-life of Miss Anthony; but, if she has enjoyed or suffered any of the usual triumphs or disappointments of her sex, she has not yet vouchsafed this information to her biographers. While few women have had more sincere and lasting friendships, or a more extensive correspondence with a large circle of noble men, yet I doubt if one of them can boast of having received from her any exceptional attention. She has often playfully said, when questioned on this point, that she could not consent that the man she loved, described in the Constitution as a white male, native born, American citizen, possessed of the right of self-government, eligible to the office of President of the Great Republic, should unite his destinies in marriage with a political slave and pariah. "No, no; when I am crowned with all the rights, privileges, and immunities of a citizen, I may give some consideration to this social institution; but until then I must concentrate all my energies on the enfranchisement of my own sex." Miss Anthony's love-life, like her religion, has manifested itself in steadfast, earnest labors for men in general. She has been a watchful and affectionate daughter, sister, friend, and those who have felt the pulsations of her great heart know how warmly it beats for all.

As the custom has long been observed, among married women, of celebrating the anniversaries of their wedding-day, quite properly the initiative has been taken, in late years, of doing honor to the great events in the lives of single women. Being united in closest bonds to her profession, Dr. Harriet K. Hunt of Boston celebrated her twenty-fifth year of faithful services as a physician by giving to her friends and patrons a large reception, which she called her silver wedding. From a feeling of the sacredness of her life work, the admirers of Susan B. Anthony have been moved to mark, by reception and convention, her rapid-flowing years and the passing decades of the suffrage movement. To the most brilliant occasion of this kind, the invitation cards were as follows:

The ladies of the Woman's Bureau invite you to a reception on Tuesday evening, February 15th, to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of Susan B. Anthony, when her friends will have an opportunity to show their appreciation of her long services in behalf of woman's emancipation.

No. 49 East 23rd St., New York,
         February 10, 1870.


In response to the invitation, the parlors of the bureau were crowded with friends to congratulate Miss Anthony on the happy event, many bringing valuable gifts as an expression of their gratitude. Among other presents were a handsome gold watch and checks to the amount of a thousand dollars. The guests were entertained with music, recitations, the reading of many piquant letters of regret from distinguished people, and witty rhymes written for the occasion by the Cary sisters. Miss Anthony received her guests with her usual straightforward simplicity, and in a few earnest words expressed her thanks for the presents and praises showered upon her. The comments of the leading journals, next day, were highly complimentary, and as genial as amusing. All dwelt on the fact that, at last, a woman had arisen brave enough to assert her right to grow old and openly declare that half a century had rolled over her head.

Of carefully prepared written speeches Miss Anthony has made few; but these, by the high praise they called forth, prove that she can–in spite of her own declaration to the contrary–put her sterling thoughts on paper concisely and effectively. After her exhaustive plea, in 1880, for a Sixteenth Amendment before the Judiciary Committee of the Senate, Senator Edmunds accosted her, as she was leaving the Capitol, and said he neglected to tell her, in the committee room, that she had made an argument, no matter what his personal feelings were as to the conclusions reached, which was unanswerable–an argument, unlike the usual platform oratory given at hearings, suited to a committee of men trained to the law.

It was in 1876 that Miss Anthony gave her much criticised lecture on "Social Purity" in Boston. As to the result she felt very anxious; for the intelligence of New England composed her audience, and it did not still her heart-beats to see, sitting just in front of the platform, her revered friend, William Lloyd Garrison. But surely every fear vanished when she felt the grand old abolitionist's hand warmly pressing hers, and heard him say that to listen to no one else would he have had courage to leave his sick room, and that he felt fully repaid by her grand speech, which neither in matter nor manner would he have changed in the smallest particular. But into Miss Anthony's private correspondence one must look for examples of her most effective writing. Verb or substantive is often wanting, but you can always catch the thought, and will ever find it clear and suggestive. It is a strikingly strange dialect, but one that touches, at times, the deepest chords of pathos and humor, and, when stirred by some great event, is highly eloquent.

From being the most ridiculed and mercilessly persecuted woman, Miss Anthony has become the most honored and respected in the nation. Witness the praises of press and people, and the enthusiastic ovations she received on her departure for Europe in 1883. Never were warmer expressions of regret for an absence, nor more sincere prayers for a speedy return, accorded to any American on leaving his native shores. This slow awaking to the character of her services shows the abiding sense of justice in the human soul. Having spent the winter of 1882-83 in Washington, trying to press to a vote the bill for a Sixteenth Amendment before Congress, and the autumn in a vigorous campaign through Nebraska, where a constitutional amendment to enfranchise women had been submitted to the people, she felt the imperative need of an entire change in the current of her thoughts. Accordingly, after one of the most successful conventions ever held at the national capital, and a most flattering ovation in the spacious parlors of the Riggs House, and a large reception in Philadelphia, she sailed for Europe.

Fortunate in being perfectly well during the entire voyage, our traveler received perpetual enjoyment in watching the ever varying sea and sky. To the captain's merry challenge to find anything so grand as the ocean, she replied, "Yes, these mighty forces in nature do indeed fill me with awe; but this vessel, with deep-buried fires, powerful machinery, spacious decks, and tapering masts, walking the waves like a thing of life, and all the work of man, impresses one still more deeply. Lo! in man's divine creative power is fulfilled the prophecy, 'Ye shall be as Gods!'"

In all her journeyings through Germany, Italy, and France, Miss Anthony was never the mere sight-seer, but always the humanitarian and reformer in traveler's guise. Few of the great masterpieces of art gave her real enjoyment. The keen appreciation of the beauties of sculpture, painting, and architecture, which one would have expected to find in so deep a religious nature, was wanting, warped, no doubt, by her early Quaker training. That her travels gave her more pain than pleasure was, perhaps, not so much that she had no appreciation of æsthetic beauty, but that she quickly grasped the infinitude of human misery; not because her soul did not feel the heights to which art had risen, but that it vibrated in every fiber to the depths to which mankind had fallen. Wandering through a gorgeous palace one day, she exclaimed, "What do you find to admire here? If it were a school of five hundred children being educated into the right of self-government I could admire it, too; but standing for one man's pleasure, I say no!" In the quarters of one of the devotees, at the old monastery of the Certosa, at Florence, there lies, on a small table, an open book, in which visitors register. On the occasion of Miss Anthony's visit the pen and ink proved so unpromising that her entire party declined this opportunity to make themselves famous, but she made the rebellious pen inscribe, "Perfect equality for women, civil, political, religious. Susan B. Anthony, U. S. A." Friends, who visited the monastery next day, reported that lines had been drawn through this heretical sentiment.

During her visit at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Sargent, in Berlin, Miss Anthony quite innocently posted her letters in the official envelopes of our Suffrage Association, who bore the usual mottoes, "No just government can be formed without the consent of the governed," etc. In a few days an official brought back a large package, saying, "Such sentiments are not allowed to pass through the post office." Probably nothing saved her from arrest as a socialist, under the tyrannical police regulations, but the fact that she was the guest of the Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States.

My son Theodore wrote of Miss Anthony's visit in Paris: "I had never before seen her in the role of tourist. She seemed interested only in historical monuments, and in the men and questions of the hour. The galleries of the Louvre had little attraction for her, but she gazed with deep pleasure at Napoleon's tomb, Nôtre Dame, and the ruins of the Tuileries. She was always ready to listen to discussions on the political problems before the French people, the prospects of the Republic, the divorce agitation, and the education of women. 'I had rather see Jules Ferry than all the pictures of the Louvre, Luxembourg, and Salon,' she remarked at table. A day or two later she saw Ferry at Laboulaye's funeral. The three things which made the deepest impression on Miss Anthony, during her stay at Paris, were probably the interment of Laboulaye (the friend of the United States and of the woman movement); the touching anniversary demonstration of the Communists, at the Cemetery of Père La Chaise, on the very spot where the last defenders of the Commune of 1871 were ruthlessly shot and buried in a common grave; and a woman's rights meeting, held in a little hall in the Rue de Rivoli, at which the brave, farseeing Mlle. Hubertine Auchet was the leading spirit."

While on the Continent Miss Anthony experienced the unfortunate sensation of being deaf and dumb; to speak and not to be understood, to hear and not to comprehend, were to her bitter realities. We can imagine to what desperation she was brought when her Quaker prudishness could hail an emphatic oath in English from a French official with the exclamation, "Well, it sounds good to hear someone even swear in old Anglo Saxon!" After two months of enforced silence, she was buoyant in reaching the British Islands once more, where she could enjoy public speaking and general conversation. Here she was the recipient of many generous social attentions, and, on May 25, a large public meeting of representative people, presided over by Jacob Bright, was called, in our honor, by the National Association of Great Britain. She spoke on the educational and political status of women in America, I of their religious and social position.

Before closing my friend's biography I shall trace two golden threads in this closely woven life of incident. One of the greatest services rendered by Miss Anthony to the suffrage cause was in casting a vote in the Presidential election of 1872, in order to test the rights of women under the Fourteenth Amendment. For this offense the brave woman was arrested, on Thanksgiving Day, the national holiday handed down to us by Pilgrim Fathers escaped from England's persecutions. She asked for a writ of habeas corpus. The writ being flatly refused, in January, 1873, her counsel gave bonds. The daring defendant finding, when too late, that this not only kept her out of jail, but her case out of the Supreme Court of the United States, regretfully determined to fight on, and gain the uttermost by a decision in the United States Circuit Court. Her trial was set down for the Rochester term in May. Quickly she canvassed the whole county, laying before every probable juror the strength of her case. When the time for the trial arrived, the District Attorney, fearing the result, if the decision were left to a jury drawn from Miss Anthony's enlightened county, transferred the trial to the Ontario County term, in June, 1873.

It was now necessary to instruct the citizens of another county. In this task Miss Anthony received valuable assistance from Matilda Joslyn Gage; and, to meet all this new expense, financial aid was generously given, unsolicited, by Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Gerrit Smith, and other sympathizers. But in vain was every effort; in vain the appeal of Miss Anthony to her jurors; in vain the moral influence of the leading representatives of the bar of Central New York filling the courtroom, for Judge Hunt, without precedent to sustain him, declaring it a case of law and not of fact, refused to give the case to the jury, reserving to himself final decision. Was it not an historic scene which was enacted there in that little courthouse in Canandaigua? All the inconsistencies were embodied in that Judge, punctilious in manner, scrupulous in attire, conscientious in trivialities, and obtuse on great principles, fitly described by Charles O'Conor–"A very ladylike Judge." Behold him sitting there, balancing all the niceties of law and equity in his Old World scales, and at last saying, "The prisoner will stand up." Whereupon the accused arose. "The sentence of the court is that you pay a fine of one hundred dollars and the costs of the prosecution." Then the unruly defendant answers: "May it please your Honor, I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty," and more to the same effect, all of which she has lived up to. The "ladylike" judge had gained some insight into the determination of the prisoner; so, not wishing to incarcerate her to all eternity, he added gently: "Madam, the court will not order you committed until the fine is paid."

It was on the 17th of June that the verdict was given. On that very day, a little less than a century before, the brave militia was driven back at Bunker Hill–back, back, almost wiped out; yet truth was in their ranks, and justice, too. But how ended that rebellion of weak colonists? The cause of American womanhood, embodied for the moment in the liberty of a single individual, received a rebuff on June 17, 1873; but, just as surely as our Revolutionary heroes were in the end victorious, so will the inalienable rights of our heroines of the nineteenth century receive final vindication.

In his speech of 1880, before the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard, Wendell Phillips said–what as a rule is true–that "a reformer, to be conscientious, must be free from bread-winning." I will open Miss Anthony's accounts and show that this reformer, being, perhaps, the exception which proves the rule, has been consistently and conscientiously in debt. Turning over her year-books the pages give a fair record up to 1863. Here began the first herculean labor. The Woman's Loyal League, sadly in need of funds, was not an incorporated association, so its secretary assumed the debts. Accounts here became quite lamentable, the deficit reaching five thousand dollars. It must be paid, and, in fact, will be paid. Anxious, weary hours were spent in crowding the Cooper Institute, from week to week, with paying audiences, to listen to such men as Phillips, Curtis, and Douglass, who contributed their services, and lifted the secretary out of debt. At last, after many difficulties, her cash-book of 1863 was honorably pigeon-holed. In 1867 we can read account of herculean labor the second. Twenty thousand tracts are needed to convert the voters of Kansas to woman suffrage. Traveling expenses to Kansas, and the tracts, make the debtor column overreach the creditor some two thousand dollars. There is recognition on these pages of more than one thousand dollars obtained by soliciting advertisements, but no note is made of the weary, burning July days spent in the streets of New York to procure this money, nor of the ready application of the savings made by petty economies from her salary from the Hovey Committee.

It would have been fortunate for my brave friend, if cash-books 1868, 1869, and 1870 had never come down from their shelves; for they sing and sing, in notes of debts, till all unite in one vast chorus of far more than ten thousand dollars. These were the days of the Revolution, the newspaper, not the war, though it was warfare for the debt-ridden manager. Several thousand dollars she paid with money earned by lecturing, and with money given her for personal use. One Thanksgiving was, in truth, a time for returning thanks; for she received, canceled, from her cousin, Anson Lapham, her note for four thousand dollars. After the funeral of Paulina Wright Davis, the bereaved widower pressed into Miss Anthony's hand canceled notes for five hundred dollars, bearing on the back the words, " In memory of my beloved wife." One other note was canceled in recognition of her perfect forgetfulness of self-interest and ready sacrifice to the needs of others. When laboring, in 1874, to, fill every engagement, in order to meet her debts, her mother's sudden illness called her home. Without one selfish regret, the anxious daughter hastened to Rochester. When recovery was certain, and Miss Anthony was about to return to her fatiguing labors, her mother gave her, at parting, her note for a thousand dollars, on which was written, in trembling lines, " In just consideration of the tender sacrifice made to nurse me in severe illness." At last all the Revolution debt was paid, except that due to her generous sister, Mary Anthony, who used often humorously to assure her she was a fit subject for the bankrupt act.

There is something humorously pathetic in the death of the Revolution –that firstborn of Miss Anthony. Mrs. Laura Curtis Bullard generously assumed the care of the troublesome child, and, in order to make the adoption legal, gave the usual consideration–one dollar. The very night of the transfer Miss Anthony went to Rochester with the dollar in her pocket, and the little change left after purchasing her ticket. She arrived safely with her debts, but nothing more–her pocket had been picked! Oh, thief, could you but know what value of faithful work you purloined!

From the close of the year 1876 Miss Anthony's accounts showed favorable signs as to the credit column. Indeed, at the end of five years there was a solid balance of several thousand dollars earned on lecturing tours. But alas! the accounts grow dim again–in fact the credit column fades away. "The History of Woman Suffrage" ruthlessly swallowed up every vestige of Miss Anthony's bank account. But, in 1886, by the will of Mrs. Eddy, daughter of Francis Jackson of Boston, Miss Anthony received twenty-four thousand dollars for the Woman's Suffrage Movement, which lifted her out of debt once more.

In vain will you search these telltale books for evidence of personal extravagance; for, although Miss Anthony thinks it true economy to buy the best, her tastes are simple. Is there not something very touching in the fact that she never bought a book or picture for her own enjoyment? The meager personal balance-sheets show four lapses from discipline,–lapses that she even now regards as ruthless extravagance,–viz.: the purchase of two inexpensive brooches, a much needed watch, and a pair of cuffs to match a point-lace collar presented by a friend. Those interested in Miss Anthony's personal appearance long ago ceased to trust her with the purchase-money for any ornament; for, however firm her resolution to comply with their wish, the check invariably found its way to the credit column of those little cash-books as "money received for the cause." Now, reader, you have been admitted to a private view of Miss Anthony's financial records, and you can appreciate her devotion to an idea. Do you not agree with me that a "bread-winner" can be a conscientious reformer?

In finishing this sketch of the most intimate friend I have had for the past forty-five years,–with whom I have spent weeks and months under the same roof,–I can truly say that she is the most upright, courageous, self-sacrificing, magnanimous human being I have ever known. I have seen her beset on every side with the most petty annoyances, ridiculed and misrepresented, slandered and persecuted; I have known women refuse to take her extended hand; women to whom she presented copies of "The History of Woman Suffrage," return it unnoticed; others to keep it without one word of acknowledgment; others to write most insulting letters in answer to hers of affectionate conciliation. And yet, under all the cross-fires incident to a reform, never has her hope flagged, her self-respect wavered, or a feeling of resentment shadowed her mind. Oftentimes, when I have been sorely discouraged, thinking that the prolonged struggle was a waste of force which in other directions might be rich in achievement, with her sublime faith in humanity, she would breathe into my soul renewed inspiration, saying, "Pity rather than blame those who persecute us." So closely interwoven have been our lives, our purposes, and experiences that, separated, we have a feeling of incompleteness–united, such strength of self-assertion that no ordinary obstacles, difficulties, or dangers ever appear to us insurmountable. Reviewing the life of Susan B. Anthony, I ever liken her to the Doric column in Grecian architecture, so simply, so grandly she stands, free from every extraneous ornament, supporting her one vast idea–the enfranchisement of woman.

As our estimate of ourselves and our friendship may differ somewhat from that taken from an objective point of view, I will give an extract from what our common friend Theodore Tilton wrote of us in 1868:

"Miss Susan B. Anthony, a well-known, indefatigable, and lifelong advocate of temperance, anti-slavery, and woman's rights, has been, since 1851, Mrs. Stanton's intimate associate in reformatory labors. These celebrated women are of about equal age, but of the most opposite characteristics, and illustrate the theory of counterparts in affection by entertaining for each other a friendship of extraordinary strength.

"Mrs. Stanton is a fine writer, but a poor executant; Miss Anthony is a thorough manager, but a poor writer. Both have large brains and great hearts; neither has any selfish ambition for celebrity; but each vies with the other in a noble enthusiasm for the cause to which they are devoting their lives.

"Nevertheless, to describe them critically, I ought to say that, opposites though they be, each does not so much supplement the other's deficiencies as augment the other's eccentricities. Thus they often stimulate each other's aggressiveness, and, at the same time, diminish each other's discretion.

"But, whatever may be the imprudent utterances of the one or the impolitic methods of the other, the animating motives of both are evermore as white as the light. The good that they do is by design; the harm by accident. These two women, sitting together in their parlors, have, for the last thirty years, been diligent forgers of all manner of projectiles, from fireworks to thunderbolts, and have hurled them with unexpected explosion into the midst of all manner of educational, reformatory, religious, and political assemblies; sometimes to the pleasant surprise and half welcome of the members, more often to the bewilderment and prostration of numerous victims; and, in a few signal instances, to the gnashing of angry men's teeth. I know of no two more pertinacious incendiaries in the whole country. Nor will they themselves deny the charge. In fact this noise-making twain are the two sticks of a drum, keeping up what Daniel Webster called 'The rub-a-dub of agitation.'"


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom