Modern History Sourcebook:
Susan B. Anthony:
Women's Right to Vote
Susan B. Anthony was one of the strongest advocates of Women's
rights in the mid-19th century, and is a representative figure
of this politically oriented types of feminists politics. . IN
1872 she was arrested after casting an 'illegal' vote in the presidential
election. She was fined $100 but refused to pay. She delivered
this speech in 1873.
Friends and fellow citizens: I stand before you tonight under
indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential
election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my
work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only
committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen's
rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the
National Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.
The preamble of the Federal Constitution says:
"We, the people of the United States, in order to form a
more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity,
provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and
secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States
It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet
we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the
Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty,
but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half
of our posterity, but to the whole people - women as well as men.
And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment
of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the
only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican
government - the ballot.
For any state to make sex a qualification that must ever result
in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people is to
pass a bill of attainder, or an ex post facto law, and is therefore
a violation of the supreme law of the land. By it the blessings
of liberty are forever withheld from women and their female posterity.
To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent
of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It
is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy
of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face
of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the
poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the
ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules
the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which
makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the
mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household
- which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries
dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation.
Webster, Worcester, and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person
in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office.
The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons?
And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood
to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens;
and no state has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old
law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence,
every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws
of the several states is today null and void, precisely as is
every one against Negroes.
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(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997