A Very Happy Birthday to February’s Real Life Heroine

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Whew, we made it through a pandemic Valentine’s Day… social distancing and masked! If you’re pondering that half-eaten heart box of chocolates while winter still has a hold on your backside and wondering what else there is to celebrate then grab your birthday hat and party horn for February’s birthday-girl of honor!

Some pretty amazing people were born in February. Among them are Rosa Parks, Charles Darwin, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Galileo, and Thomas Edison. But don’t blow out the birthday candles without a salute to one of our favorite female heroines. Not the fictional Wonder Woman but the real-life wonder woman… Susan B. Anthony!  

Susan B. Anthony, Photo: WikiCommons

As a tireless activist and pioneer crusader for Women’s suffrage in the United States, Anthony dedicated herself to establishing rights and norms for women and people of color. She was born in Adams, Massachusetts on February 15, 1820, and raised in a family of reformers. At just sixteen, Susan circulated anti-slavery petitions and by 1856 she was so involved in the American Anti-Slavery Society that she became a target and was hung in effigy. Through the abolitionist movement, she met Frederick Douglass, and the two forged a long friendship with Anthony delivering her friend’s eulogy at Washington’s Metropolitan AME church in 1895.

Let’s Have Tea” sculpture Rochester, NY, depicting Anthony and Frederick Douglas in deep discussion.

While fighting to end slavery Susan B. Anthony still had time for a career. As a teacher, (one of the few careers that women were allowed to have in her era), she was paid just $110 a year while her male colleagues were paid much more. This disparity in salaries prompted her to advocate for higher pay for female teachers as well as for male and female students to be educated together while also calling for people of color to be allowed admission to public schools and colleges. All of these ideas were dismissed as improper as was her public speaking on these issues during New York state teacher conventions.  

“Do you not see that so long as society says a woman is incompetent to be a lawyer, minister, or doctor, but has ample ability to be a teacher, that every man of you who chooses this profession tacitly acknowledges that he has no more brains than a woman.”

Susaan B. Anthony, 1853, New York State Teachers meeting

In 1872, Susan B. Anthony found herself arrested along with 14 others after she registered to vote in the Presidential election, at a barbershop in Rochester, New York. She lost her argument in court that women already had the constitutional right to vote and found herself slapped with a $100 fine (equivalent to $2000 in today’s currency) which she refused to pay. She later wrote in her diary that the trial was “the greatest outrage History ever witnessed.” Not only was she not allowed to speak as a witness in her own defense because she was a woman but, at the conclusion of arguments, the judge dismissed the jury and pronounced her guilty denying her a trial by a jury of her peers.

“Failure is Impossible” Photo: WikiCommons

Although Anthony didn’t live long enough to see the full achievement of women’s suffrage nationally, she paved the way for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting states from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex. Always an enthusiastic fighter for woman’s suffrage, her last speech, given a month before her death in 1906, was concluded with the inspiring quote “Failure is Impossible!”  Happy Birthday Susan B. Anthony!

Deb Fries is a freelance designer and writer and worked for Julianna Rae in Customer Service and Graphics, she now writes for the blog at juliannarae.com