Celebrate Women’s History Month: Susan B. Anthony

Mackie
March 12, 2015

Susan B. Anthony was a revolutionary abolitionist, social reformer, and feminist who played a substantial role in the women’s suffrage movement. In what Time Magazine calls one of the top ten greatest speeches of all time, Susan B. Anthony’s passion and anger pours out through the page. She had just been fined $100 for casting an illegal ballot (“illegal” meaning she was a woman and therefore broke the law by voting) and she went out on a tour speaking about women’s rights. Time notes Anthony was fined in 1872 and the 19th amendment passed in 1920– Anthony never paid her fine.

Women’s Rights to Suffrage

by Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

1873

Friends and Fellow Citizens: I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen’s rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any State to deny.

The preamble of the Federal Constitution says:

“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people–women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government–the ballot.

For any State to make sex a qualification that must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people is to pass a bill of attainder, or an ex post facto law, and is therefore a violation of the supreme law of the land. By it the blessings of liberty are for ever withheld from women and their female posterity. To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the right govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters of every household–which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord and rebellion into every home of the nation.

Webster, Worcester and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office.

The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no State has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several States is today null and void, precisely as in every one against Negroes.

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Susan B. Anthony’s speech appears as found here.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Bella Abzug

Mackie
March 10, 2015

With a campaign slogan like “A woman’s place is in the house — the House of Representatives,” who wouldn’t elect Bella Abzug? Abzug was “born yelling” in New York City in 1920, and went on to become an influential player in the civil rights and women’s movements, a social activist, and a congressperson for the 20th district of New York in the US House of Representatives. She helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus, and was an avid advocate for peace and protest. She was a driven, exceptionally charismatic and passionate woman who stood her ground even when it signaled defeat.

Hear her speak here. The Jewish Women’s Archive also has a wonderful resource where you can hear longer speeches on the gender gap, feminism, and being a female lawyer during the McCarthy era, as well as read a more in depth history.

There is little video of Abzug in her prime, but watch her below as she recounts how she helped propose and pass legislation so women could apply and sign for their own credit cards. This was in 1974. Let me repeat, women were barred from applying for credit cards without their husbands’ permission up until 1974. While this seems a little infomercial-ish, her commitment to women’s liberties is clear. Plus, she just seems like a lady who gets shit done. And I love that.

 

Bella Abzug was an inspirational woman who founded countless organizations and conferences. She gave her final speech at the UN in 1999 and died shortly after. After listening to her speak, I wish we had about 10,000 of her in Congress today.

 

 

 

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