March is Women’s History Month (in the US).
I’m doing a series of posts about women who have have an impact on me.
History is peppered with extremes of those driven by social conscience and those driven by other goals. No country or state is free of a history of atrocities and horrors, even against its own people. One of the most visible and publicized histories in North America is that of the American slave trade.
Susan B. Anthony was just seventeen when she began to protest slavery. She, like most Quakers, was concerned about social justice. She was active in the temperance movement, and she was a suffragette. Those two things went hand-in-hand, because in the 19th century, a woman whose husband was a drunk had no legal recourse to protect herself and/or her children against abuse or financial ruin. Taking the side of the temperance movement (which advocated for the complete prohibition of liquor) was more socially palatable than outright insisting that women had rights (which Anthony also did).
She was arrested -and convicted- in 1872 at the age of 52 for voting. She was arrested for voting. Anthony fought for desegregation of education, not only between genders but between races. This fight…did not end well. It was defeated soundly.
She became a publisher and took her fight against slavery and for women’s rights to the people in print. It was a radical publication, and dealt with issues like poverty and social reform. After suffering from a lack of stable funding prompted a change in ownership, the magazine took on a more conventional tone and eventually ceased publication entirely.
I learned about Susan B. Anthony when on a family vacation to the US. Someone at a shop somewhere gave me this huge coin for change and I had no idea what it was. This was long before Canada traded in our faded green dollar banknotes and pink two-dollar banknotes for shiny “loonies” and “twonies” (yes, yes, Canadian currency is cute). I asked my Dad what this coin was, and he told me it was a “Susan B. Anthony”, and that I should hold on to it because someday it might be worth something.
Of COURSE I spent it immediately on an orange soda, a bag of chips, and a comic book (yes, a SINGLE DOLLAR bought those things at rest stops in the 80s). But I liked how the name “Susan B. Anthony” sounded, and I began to wonder who she was. So I started asking around. Some people said she was a crazy old bat who wanted to stop people from drinking and having fun. Some people said she was a woman who campaigned for the abolishment of slavery. A few people told me she worked hard to make sure women got the right to vote.
At 8 years old, I thought it was pretty cool for a woman who was not the Queen of England to have her head on a coin. That’s when I started to learn about women’s rights. So even more than 70 years after Susan B. Anthony died, she was still educating people about the importance of women’s rights.