Susan B. Anthony

The document that the editors of Available Means chose for Susan B. Anthony is from her trial, The United States of America v. Susan B. Anthony. This is the first court document in the book, and, I would think, the first example of a woman being able to record the injustices of a system that denies women the rights given to male citizens, of being tried by a jury of their peers. Although Anthony was not allowed to speak in her own defense at trial, she manages to speak at the sentencing.

I don't understand how it could have made sense to say that women should be tried by juries consisting solely of men. If women were denied the rights to vote, then how could any man that could vote be at all considered her peer? It would almost seem that the real point of keeping women from the vote was nothing more than preventing her from bettering her own situation.

In the court proceedings, the judge does, in fact, negate the jury not-of-her-peers by ordering a directed verdict. No one argued that she was not a woman, and no one argued that she did not vote. Therefore, by reason of her very sex, she was pronounced guilty. It seems like madness to me, but there are still places where a woman can be judged guilty for performing a task that she is quite capable of, such as driving in certain countries, simply by virtue of her sex.

I found it interesting that, after argument with the voter registration officials, she was allowed to register to vote. It would seem that there would be less publicity in simply denying her the register than allowing it and then practically challenging her to exercise the right she took. Would it have been legal for her to be registered as long as she did not vote?

Anthony took the right to vote, claiming it as her citizen's right. It ended up being more of a publicity stunt than an actual driver of change, but it was still a daring, even noble, gesture. However, Anthony's views on who should get the vote were less than noble. Just as the abolitionists of Grimke's time argued against the inclusion of women's rights in the abolitionist cause, so did Anthony argue against the inclusion of Blacks in her quest for women's enfranchisement. How do we deal with the reprehensible views of those we might otherwise call our heroes? It is easy to say that these views were a product of her time and dismiss those views that do not conform to modern sensibilities. But is that the right thing to do? Should all of Anthony's work be dismissed because of her exclusionary tactics?

Every movement for rights seems to be cutting out any "extreme" element that would prevent it from gaining wide acceptance. Wide acceptance is required in order for the goals of the movement to be reached. So, the abolitionists cannot concern themselves with the rights of women, the white women cannot concern themselves with the vote for persons of color, and here in Idaho the rights of people who wish to discriminate on the basis of their religious beliefs are placed above the rights of those so discriminated against. All because of a lack of wide acceptance of the idea put forth in the Seneca Falls Convention, that all men and women are created equal.

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