By Kathleen Guthrie
Susan B. Anthony made her first public speech for women’s rights at the 1852 national convention in Syracuse, New York, and campaigned tirelessly throughout her life. When asked if women would ever be granted the right to vote, she once responded, “It is inevitable.” Yet it wasn’t until 1906, 14 years after her death, that American women finally achieved their goal with the passage of the 19th Amendment.
She also was the first non-allegorical woman to be featured on a circulating U.S. coin, the Susan B. Anthony dollar, which was minted in 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1999. I always thought this was cool, but didn’t know until recently that it’s ironic.
In 1872, Susan was arrested for voting illegally in the presidential election. Despite passionate arguments that invoked the recent passage of the 14th Amendment, which gave the privileges of citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” (with no gender distinctions), she was convicted without being allowed to testify on her own behalf. The judge ordered the jury to find her guilty and then sentenced her with a fine of $100. Here’s where it gets fun: She responded by announcing, “I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.”
She never did. The embarrassed government never made any concerted effort to collect, and in fact, the trial fueled her notoriety and opened the doors to a bigger platform from which to spread her message of gender equality.
Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s finding inspiration in the stories of many of our “cheroes” (heroes who are childfree) as we celebrate National Women’s History Month.