Letter of Susan B. Anthony, 1900 March 26
Letter from Susan B. Anthony to Samuel Shinn Ash.
Language of Materials
Materials in English.
Access. Original closed; researchers must use digital image.
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Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Susan B. Anthony as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
Collection consists of a letter from Susan B. Anthony to Samuel Shinn Ash, expressing regret that she had not been able to attend a meeting at the Ray[sic.] Street Meetinghouse in Philadelphia, to which Ash had invited her. The Race Street Meetinghouse was the site of the Yearly Meeting of the Hicksite sect of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) from 1857 to 1955. Anthony also recalls hearing Lucretia Mott speak at the Meetinghouse in 1876 and speculates that she had met Ash and his wife in Washington, D.C.
BIOGRAPHY OF SAMUEL SHINN ASH
Samuel Shinn Ash was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1829, the son of Caleb and Rebecca Shinn Ash. His father was a doctor. He married Sarah Jackson Schofield in 1859; the couple lived in Philadelphia and Swarthmore, Massachusetts. They had at least one child, a daughter named Mary. Ash worked in manufacturing and the family were members of the local Quaker community, active in the anti-slavery, temperance, and women's rights movements, among other causes. Ash also served as a Quaker minister. He died in 1911.
BIOGRAPHY OF SUSAN B. ANTHONY
Social reformer and civil rights activist Susan B. Anthony was born in Adams, Massachusetts in 1820, the daughter of Daniel and Lucy (Read) Anthony. She had six siblings. The entire family was strongly interested in social reform; Anthony's father was a Quaker, as well as an abolitionist and advocate for temperance and several of her siblings also supported the anti-slavery movement. In 1845, the family purchased a farm near Rochester, New York, where they became friendly with a group of abolitionists and activists which included Frederick Douglass. Anthony's parents and sister Mary attended the Rochester Women's Rights Convention in 1848; Anthony herself was living in Canajoharie, New York, where she'd been appointed headmistress of the female department of the Canajoharie Academy and did not attend the convention. The Academy closed in 1849 and Anthony returned to her family's farm before embarking on a career of activism.
Anthony joined the Daughters of Temperance while working in Cajajoharie and gave her first public speech in 1849. In 1851, Anthony met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the two women, discovering that they had complementary talents, began working closely together. In the early 1850s, Anthony continued her work for the temperance movement, but she was frustrated by the unwillingness of male members of the movement to allow women to speak at conventions. This and other experiences convinced her that women could not participate in social movements in any meaningful way until they had equal rights with men, in particular the right to vote. She subsequently devoted her efforts to the women's rights and abolitionist movements. Her interest in protecting and improving women's legal rights after they married resulted in the Married Woman's Property Act in 1860. She also worked with Harriet Tubman in the Underground Railroad and with the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1863, she and Stanton established the Women's Loyal National League, which campaigned for a constitutional amendment to end slavery; the League's work helped lead to the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery.
In the 1850s, Anthony became increasingly involved with the annual Women's Rights Conventions. She and Stanton organized the eleventh convention in 1866, at which members voted to rename to organization the American Equal Rights Association, with the goal of achieving equal rights for all citizens. Differing attitudes towards the proposed 15th Amendment (granting the African American men the right to vote) came to a head at the Association's 1869 convention, leading to the collapse of the Association and the establishment of the American Woman Suffrage Association by Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe and other associates. Anthony, Stanton, and their allies founded the National Woman Suffrage Association and Anthony then devoted herself to the suffrage movement. Her skill as a lecturer and her dedication to the movement made her a highly effective advocate for suffrage and she became a well-known public figure and a talented fundraiser. The two suffrage organizations ultimately reconciled in 1887, forming the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Stanton as president and Anthony as vice-president. Stanton retired in 1892 and Anthony became president, serving until 1900. In 1876, Anthony and Stanton began work on a history of women's suffrage. This effort took almost fifty years to complete and ultimately resulted in a six-volume set, with the final volumes written by Anthony's official biographer, Ida Husted Halsten, after the deaths of Stanton and Anthony.
In November 1872, Anthony and a group of other women were arrested for voting in a federal election. Anthony was put on trial and before the case began, she gave speeches throughout the New York State county in which the trial was to be held, claiming that the Fourteenth Amendment gave her the right to vote. The case drew national attention and was closely followed by the press. A rule of common law prevented criminal defendants in federal cases from testifying, and the judge did not allow Anthony to speak until after he had directed the jury to deliver a guilty verdict. Once she had the chance to speak, she delivered a lengthy speech in which she castigated the judge for his handling of the case. The judge then sentenced her to pay a fine of $100, which she declined to pay. In 1920, on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, President Donald Trump announced that he would pardon Anthony.
Anthony went to Europe in 1883, meeting with Stanton and leaders of European women's movements to discuss the establishment of an international women's movement. In 1888, the National Woman's Suffrage Association hosted a meeting in Washington, DC, to form the new organization. The meeting was attended by delegates from fifty-three women's organizations, including suffrage associations, temperance groups, labor unions, and literary clubs. The resulting organization, the International Council of Women, is still active as of 2020, and works towards protecting and promoting human rights, equality, peace and women's involvement in all spheres of life. Because of the range of member association's interests, the Council did not actively work towards women's suffrage. Due largely to the efforts of Carrie Chapman Catt, Anthony's successor as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the International Woman Suffrage Alliance was founded in Berlin in 1904. Anthony was named the first member and honorary president. The organization was eventually renamed the International Alliance of Women and remains active as of 2020.
Anthony died in March 1906, shortly after attending the National American Woman Suffrage Association annual convention in Baltimore, Maryland, and fourteen years before the Nineteenth Amendment gave American women the legal right to vote.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Accession number: 87-M56
This letter of Susan B. Anthony was given to the Schlesinger Library by Samuel Shinn Ash's great-grandchildren, Herbert Dresser and his siblings, in 1987.
Processed: April 1988
By: Susan von Salis.
Updated and additional description added: October 2020
By: Susan Earle
The collection was previously cataloged as A/A819.
The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit. Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.
- Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
- Language of description
- Processing of this collection was made possible by the Radcliffe Class of 1955 Manuscript Processing Fund.
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