Susan B. Anthony

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Best remembered as an advocate for women's voting rights and as a founder of the Suffrage movement, Susan B. Anthony was also active in the Temperance and Abolitionist movements. She was a woman ahead of her times who believed that women deserved every right that was given to male citizens, including the right to an education.

Biographical Highlights

Susan B. Anthony was a leader who is best remembered for her advocacy for women's voting rights and as a founder of the Suffrage movement. She was also active in the Temperance and Abolitionist movements. She was a woman ahead of her time who believed that women deserved every right that was given to male citizens, including the right to an education. According to Nora Bredes, director of the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership, "Anthony believed that suffrage and education were 'where the focus of women's organizing energies should be' and that if those two areas were successful women would have the tools needed for everything else" (Ingalls 2002).

Historic Roots

Susan B. Anthony was born in 1820 to Read and Lucy Anthony in Adams, Massachusetts. Raised in the Quaker religion, Susan's parents were very involved in the abolitionist (outlawing slavery) and temperance (abstinence from liquor) movements. Her father also believed that all eight of his children had a right to an education. When the local school refused to allow his daughters to attend, he opened a school in their home (Kowalski 2000).

Susan completed her education at age seventeen and began a career as a teacher. Her first job ended in her dismissal due to her vocal disagreement regarding her wages. She did not believe it was right to pay her one-fifth the wage of her male colleagues (The Huntington Library 2002).

She continued to work in education and began to get civically involved in the temperance movement. Once again, Anthony found women were not permitted in the local temperance group. This catalyst caused her to form the Daughters of Temperance. Through her contacts within the Temperance movement she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton and was introduced to the Suffrage movement (Ibid.).

Anthony began traveling the country giving speeches and gaining support for women's issues such as suffrage, divorce equality, and property ownership. Although thrilled with the passing of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) that gave black men the right to vote, she was very disappointed that women were not included. Anthony and Stanton formed the National American Woman Suffrage Association (Kowalski 2002).

Anthony decided to challenge the Fourteenth Amendment, adopted in 1868, which gave all people born in the United States privileges of citizenship. On November 1, 1872, Anthony registered to vote in Rochester, New York. She proceeded to vote in the presidential election and was, subsequently, arrested and found guilty without being allowed to testify on her own behalf. She was fined $100 which she never paid (Ibid.).

Anthony continued her advocacy for women's right to vote to the ridicule of many. She was the target of satirical cartoons and was nicknamed "Napoleon of the Women's Rights Movement." This did not deter her from her efforts and she continued to campaign until she suffered from a stroke in 1900. One of Anthony's last acts was at the University of Rochester in New York. She fought with the Board of Trustees for years to allow women admittance. After almost a decade of battling the school, they finally conceded after she raised $50,000 for the school. This dream was realized two days prior to her stroke (Ingalls 2000).

Susan B. Anthony passed away in 1906. She did not live to see her big dream of suffrage. In 1920, fourteen years after her death, the Nineteenth Amendment was passed by one vote and Anthony's dream was finally completed (Miller 2001). Congress finally honored Anthony in 1979 by placing her portrait on the one-dollar coin (Who2 2002).

Historic and Political Significance

The women's rights movement would not have existed without Susan B. Anthony. She dedicated her entire life to the fight. In a letter to Stanton, Anthony wrote, "It is fifty-one years since we first met and we have been busy through every one of them, stirring up the world to reorganize the rights of women...We little dreamed when we began this contest...that half a century later we would be compelled to leave the finish of the battle to another generation of women. But our hearts are filled with joy to know that they enter upon this task equipped with a college education, with business experience, with the freely admitted right to speak in public--all of which were denied to women fifty years ago" (Kowalski 2002). Her many writings including over fifty years of letters written to Stanton, countless speeches, and published articles can be found in the six volumes of The Papers of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Anthony had many ties to the philanthropic sector. First was her involvement in many organizations such as Daughters of Temperance, the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and her work with abolition, temperance, and other political issues. She was very active in raising money to support these causes and also made generous donations to the University of Rochester and other institutions. Today, the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership provides scholarships and educational opportunities for women.

Key Related Ideas

From an early age Susan B. Anthony was taught that everyone should be treated equally. Her family stressed the importance of education for all and activism. Her parents role modeled these ideas by educating Susan when public education was unavailable to her because of her gender. These roots were influential as she lived her life fighting for the fair treatment of all citizens, particularly African Americans (as an abolitionist) and women (as a suffragist).

Her example and influence on social movements continued well into the twentieth century as women sought equal pay and equal educational opportunities, as well as in the Civil Rights movement. There are many inconsistencies in equality for which citizens continue Anthony's efforts. The National Organization for Women, the NAACP, and American Civil Liberties Union are modern organizations that follow the path she began over a century ago.

See key terms: abolition, equal rights, Suffrage movement, Temperance movement,  voting rights, and women's rights.

Important People Related to the Topic

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was Anthony's close friend and fellow suffrage and abolitionist crusader. Stanton stated, "[Anthony] supplied the facts and statistics, I the philosophy and rhetoric, and, together, we have made arguments that have stood unshaken through the storms of long years" (Kowalski 2000).

Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • American Civil Liberties Union works "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States (American Civil Liberties Union 2002).
  • National Organization for Women was founded in 1966 by Betty Friedan to campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment. It is the largest women's association in the country and works for equal opportunities for employment, housing, health care, and education for women (National Organization for Women 2002).
  • Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Rochester works for "women's full social, political, and economic equity" (University of Rochester 2002). The University also has a dormitory, scholarships, and undergraduate awards in her honor.

Related Web Sites

  • The Anthony Center for Women's Leadership at University of Rochester "encourages students, faculty, alumni, community members, and political, business and professional leaders to understand and overcome barriers to women's leadership" (
  • The PBS Web site ( provides information presented in the Ken Burns documentary Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Memories of women who lived through suffrage, recent court cases related to the ERA, video clips, and resources for teachers and activists are among the information.
  • The Susan B. Anthony House Web site provides information on the house in which Anthony lived during her most active years as a suffragist advocate. The house, located in Rochester, New York, is a National Historic Landmark dedicated to continuing and honoring Anthony's work (


American Civil Liberties Union. About the ACLU. Available from

Codel, Cindy Darling. "Failure is Impossible: The Story of Susan B. Anthony," School Library Journal 47 (2001): 11, 171.

Harper, Judith E. Susan B. Anthony: A Biographical Companion. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1998. ISBN: 0874369487.

The Huntington Library. Important People: Susan B. Anthony. No longer available.

Ingalls, Zoe. "A University Salutes a Little-known Triumph of Susan B. Anthony," The Chronicle of Higher Education 47 (2000): 6, A72.

Kowalski, Kathiann M. "Cady Stanton and Anthony: Friends Fighting for the Cause," Cobblestone 21 (2000): 3, 14-17.

Miller, Amy. "Women Who Led the Way," Junior Scholastic 103 (2001): 15, 18-21.

National Organization for Women. Available from

Rosenstrach, Jennifer. "The Women Who Won the Vote," New Women 29 (1999): 11, 56.

University of Rochester. Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies. Available from

Who2. Susan B. Anthony: Social Reformer. Available from


This paper was developed by a student taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at Grand Valley State University. It is offered by Learning To Give and Grand Valley State University.