Sunday, June 22, 2008

Funding women in the voting process - a brief historical note

June 18 , 1873 - Susan B. Anthony is found guilty of illegally voting, a federal crime.

"Susan B. Anthony is not on trial; the United States is on trial."--Matilda Joslyn Gage

More than any other woman of her generation, Susan B. Anthony saw that all of the legal disabilities faced by American women owed their existence to the simple fact that women lacked the vote. When Anthony, at age 32, attended her first woman's rights convention in Syracuse in 1852, she declared "that the right which woman needed above every other, the one indeed which would secure to her all the others, was the right of suffrage." Anthony spent the next fifty-plus years of her life fighting for the right to vote. She would work tirelessly: giving speeches, petitioning Congress and state legislatures, publishing a feminist newspaper--all for a cause that would not succeed until the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment fourteen years after her death in 1906.' continued...
Susan B. Anthony and her lawyers based their arguments on her right to vote on then recently passed Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. At the outset of the trial, Anthony and her attorney believed they stood on solid legal ground. Ultimately, however, Anthony was convicted and fined for illegal voting.

Before Anthony ever dropped a ballot in the box, she had to register to vote. When she arrived to do so the election inspectors at first refused to register her. Note how she convinced them:
[A]ccording to one published account, Anthony gave the men an argument that she thought might catch their attention: "If you refuse us our rights as citizens, I will bring charges against you in Criminal Court and I will sue each of you personally for large, exemplary damages!" She added, "I know I can win. ... There is any amount of money to back me, and if I have to, I will push to the 'last ditch' in both courts." (emphasis added)
The men registered Anthony to vote.

Susan B. Anthony used her trial to draw attention to the cause of women's suffrage. But throughout the episode she had access to a well-regarded attorney who counseled and represented her. And she had this access because she had the means to pay him.

Shattering glass ceilings costs money. As it did for Anthony, so it has for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Senator Clinton has millions of "backers". I know that all of them who can will donate to retire her primary campaign debt so that her political position rests on the firmest possible financial foundations. If people in the 19th century put their money behind Susan B. Anthony, then surely people in the 21st will put theirs behind Senator Clinton.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this bit of history. I note onething hasn't changed. You go after some men's money and you can move mountains. That is another one of the elements which makes your Retire the Debt project so worthwhile.

June 22, 2008 at 1:30 PM  

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