Achieving equality between men and women was a long and arduous task. In the 19th century, an organized women’s rights movement began in the United States. Perhaps its most famous leader was Susan B. Anthony, a champion of women’s rights until her death in 1906. Susan B. Anthony’s work established and inspired the institution of many women’s rights, and she remains one of the most influential women in history.
Anthony was born in 1820, in Adams, Massachusetts (Lutz). Her father owned a cotton mill and, along with his wife, devoutly practiced Quaker faith (Lutz). Anthony’s upbringing in Quaker religion instilled in her strong values. Religion taught her that men and women were equal before God, which heavily influenced her later work as an activist (Lutz). The Quakers also prized hard work, charity, education, and righteousness, which shaped Anthony’s character and values.
Anthony began a private school education in Philadelphia at the age of 17 (Wise). Soon after beginning school, the United States experienced the Panic of 1837. This depression greatly damaged the financial stability of the Anthony family business, which eliminated funds for Anthony’s education and forced her withdrawal from school (Wise). After leaving school, she returned to the Anthony’s new home, located in New York (Lutz).
During this period of young adulthood, the values Anthony learned during childhood formed into opinions on current issues. Anthony believed in the equality of all people and fought against the racism and segregation of 19th century United States. After moving to New York, the Anthony family hosted regular abolitionist meetings for the local Quaker community at their new home (Lutz). Anthony was also involved in the temperance movement. She spent time working in the Daughters of Temperance organization, eventually earning the title of president of the Rochester branch in 1849 (Wise).
Of course, one of Anthony’s most important developments was her opinions on women’s rights. Anthony firmly believed that men did not possess greater strength, endurance, or intelligence than women (Lutz). She thought women deserved the right to own property and the right to vote. Women’s suffrage was especially important to Anthony because she believed it was the best starting point for future reform. If women could vote, they could elect candidates that supported other measures to further equality between the sexes (Lutz).
Once settled in New York, these beliefs began playing a prominent role in Anthony’s life. Although Anthony was kept busy teaching at a local school to help pay the family bills (Wise), she also entered into activism through her involvement in the Daughters of Temperance (Lutz).
Beginning in the 1850s, Anthony transitioned her activism focus to pursue women’s rights. In 1854, Anthony created a petition to pass laws protecting women’s rights. To raise support, she traveled to 54 of 60 New York counties to gather signatures...