Susan Brownell Anthony (February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906) was an American social reformer who played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement.
Born into a Quaker family committed to social equality, she collected anti-slavery petitions at the age of 17. In 1856 she became the New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society.
In 1851 she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who became her lifelong co-worker in social reform activities, primarily in the field of women’s rights. In 1852 they founded the New York Women’s State Temperance Society after Anthony was prevented from speaking at a temperance conference because she was a woman. In 1863 they founded the Women’s Loyal National League, which conducted the largest petition drive in the nation’s history up to that time, collecting nearly 400,000 signatures in support of the abolition of slavery. In 1866 they initiated the American Equal Rights Association, which campaigned for equal rights for both women and African Americans. In 1868 they began publishing a women’s rights newspaper called The Revolution. In 1869 they founded the National Woman Suffrage Association as part of a split in the women’s movement. In 1890 the split was formally healed when their organization merged with the rival American Woman Suffrage Association to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Anthony as its key force. In 1876 Anthony and Stanton began working with Matilda Joslyn Gage on what eventually grew into the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage. The interests of Anthony and Stanton diverged somewhat in later years, but the two remained close friends.
In 1872 Anthony was arrested for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York, and convicted in a widely publicized trial. She refused to pay the fine, but the authorities declined to take further action. In 1878 Anthony and Stanton arranged for Congress to be presented with an amendment giving women the right to vote. Popularly known as the Anthony Amendment, it became the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.
Anthony traveled extensively in support of women’s suffrage, giving as many as 75 to 100 speeches per year and working on many state campaigns. She worked internationally for women’s rights, playing a key role in creating the International Council of Women, which is still active. She also helped to bring about the World’s Congress of Representative Women at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
When she first began campaigning for women’s rights, Anthony was harshly ridiculed and accused of trying to destroy the institution of marriage. Public perception of her changed radically during her lifetime, however. Her 80th birthday was celebrated in the White House at the invitation of President William McKinley. She became the first woman to be depicted on U.S. currency when her portrait appeared on the 1979 dollar coin.