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Posts Tagged ‘suffrage’

Henry Rogers Selden

Henry Rogers Selden was a lawyer, judge and politician, serving in such positions as Lieutenant Governor of New York. But the reason I photographed his grave marker is that Selden defended Susan B. Anthony in 1873. Anthony and a number of her fellow suffragists decided to test the constitutionality of denying women the right to vote, and Anthony presented her research and arguments to Selden. He found them compelling and told her that he thought she had a right to vote. She voted in the national election of 1872 and was arrested for illegal voting. Selden defended her during the case pro bono, and was extremely disappointed at her conviction.

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Yesterday marked the 90th anniversary of Tennessee’s ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing women’s right to vote in the United States.

A likely grave marker for today’s post would be for Susan B. Anthony, one of the most prominent leaders of the women’s suffrage movement, but I’ve written about her before. Instead I want to introduce you to someone whose contributions to women’s suffrage are less well known, even for those who know his name: Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass' Grave

Frederick Douglass rests in the same cemetery as Susan B. Anthony in Rochester, New York. Born into slavery in about 1818, Douglass engineered an escape and freed himself by fleeing northward. He married his first wife and settled in Massachusetts. His self-education brought him in contact with abolitionists, and he began to speak about his experiences as a slave and joined the abolitionists’ number. He wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written By Himself. He received acclaim as an orator and writer.

Although Douglass is best known for his role as an abolitionist and proponent of black civil rights, he had a much broader perspective on social reform. He supported equal rights for all, including immigrants, Native Americans, and women. He gave speeches in support of the home rule movement in Ireland. And, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, he supported women’s suffrage. In 1848, Douglass was the only African-American in attendance at the first women’s rights convention in the nation, in Seneca Falls, New York. He wrote and spoke in favor of women’s suffrage, not as a separate issue from black civil rights, but as one piece of the whole of social justice. He argued that with the franchise, African-American women in particular would be given a new tool to continue the struggle for equality. He died in 1895, still engaged in his social justice work.

Douglass is represented in these statues at Seneca Fall’s National Women’s Rights Historic Park. (Sorry for the blurriness – look at the third figure from the right.)

Seneca Falls statues

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As part of yet another roadtrip summer course on American Women’s History that looped through the New England and Mid-Atlantic states, we traveled to Susan B. Anthony’s home and gravesite in Rochester, New York.

Susan B. Anthony House

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) was one of the most famous and influential 19th century women’s rights activists. Although she is most famous for her advocacy for women’s suffrage, Anthony was also involved in the abolition, temperance, labor, and education reform movements as well. Her family moved to Rochester, New York, when she was a young women, and she lived in the family home until her death. Her sister Mary Anthony, also an activist, remained in the house until her death in 1907.

The Anthony family plot is in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester. Although Susan B. Anthony is the most famous resident, her entire family was active in the progressive movements of the 19th century.

Anthony family gravesite in Rochester

Lucy Read Anthony and Daniel Anthony attended a women’s rights convention in 1848 in Rochester, just weeks after the Seneca Falls Convention. Daniel Anthony was active in the temperance and abolitionist movements. All four of the Anthony sisters (Susan, Guelma, Hannah, and Mary) voted in 1872. Susan B. Anthony, as the leader, was arrested, convicted and fined for illegal voting. Mary Anthony, most of all, was an activist in her own right and instrumental to Susan’s ability to devote herself so entirely to her activism.

Anthony family plot

Although the world remembers Susan B. Anthony, her grave appropriately sits within the family fold, surrounded by those who loved and supported her so that she could become the activist she so desired to be.

Susan B. Anthony's Grave

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