Susan Brownell Anthony was an American leader of the women's rights movement in the 19th century and the early 20th century. She was born in 1820, near Adams, Massachusetts to Daniel Anthony and his wife Lucy Read. Her father was a Quaker cotton manufacturer, active in the abolitionist movement. Her mother was one of the signers of the "Declaration of Sentiments" (1848), the document produced by the first Women's Rights Convention in the United States, the "grand basis for attaining the civil, social, political, and religious rights of women." Susan was the eldest of seven children, notably including Daniel Read Anthony and Mary Stafford Anthony. The younger Daniel would become active in the anti-slavery movement of Kansas while Mary was another prominent member of the early women's rights movement.
Susan was a precocious child, learning to read and write by the age of three. In 1826, she started attending school in Batthenville, New York. Her parents were incensed to learn the teachers declined to teach Susan basic mathematics skill because of her gender. She was quickly pulled out of the school and educated in a group home school by teachers active in various rights movements. In 1837, Susan entered Deborah Moulson's Female Seminary, a Quaker boarding school in Philadelphia. She was forced to end her formal studies early because of her family facing financial troubles in the Panic of 1837. The "Panic" was a financial crisis lasting from 1837 to 1843, with banks failing and unemployment levels rising to record hights.
In 1839, Susan started a career as a teacher to help support her family. She taught at first in Eunice Kenyon's Friends' Seminary, moving to Canajoharie Academy in 1846. She rose to become the headmistress responsible for the female students of the Academy. At the time male teachers at both schools earned roughly four times what female were payed for the same duties. Susan started propagating wages equality after becoming familiar with the effects of the inequality.
In 1849, Susan quit teaching to move back to the family farm. She soon became involved in the temperance movement and distanced herself from the Quakers. Having witnessed Quaker preachers being drunk on several occasions, Susan viewed them as hypocrites. She would progressively distance herself from organized religion over the following decades. During the 1850s, Susan became a prominent figure in both the abolitionist and the temperance movements. In 1851, she joined with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in creating the first female temperance society. Several of the male-dominated temperance societies of the time refused to accept female members.
By 1852, Susan became active in the emerging women's rights movement. In 1856, she joined the American Anti-Slavery Society of New York. She considered both causes connected as they were demanding rights already established for white males by the "Declaration of Independence" (1776), written primarily by Thomas Jefferson. In 1869, the 15th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States granted suffrage to black men but there was no equivalent legal document extending these rights to women. Susan soon devoted herself exclusively to a struggle for women's rights.
In 1868, Susan became the publisher of "The Revolution", a weekly journal concerning women's rights. Stanton was the editor of the journal. The journal promoted "women’s and African-Americans’ right to suffrage, equal pay for equal work, more liberal divorce laws, and discussed the church’s position on women’s issues and abortion". Like many women's rights activists of the time, Susan opposed abortion because the methods used at the time endangered the lives of women subjected to it. She became active in the National Labor Union within the same year. In 1869, Susan and Stanton co-founded the National Women's Suffrage Association. Her attempts to connect both movements by encouraging women to achieve economic independence by entering the labor force resulted in controversy when female members filled positions left vacant by male members who were on strike. She was expelled from the Union because of the incident.
She was arrested in 1872 fol illegally voting in the Presidential Election. The trial resulted in only a fine but caused enough controversy to allow her arguments to be published in many newspaper, introduced to a wider audience. In 1890, Susan orchestrated the merger of the more progressive National Women's Suffrage Association with the conservative American Women Suffrage Association. The result was the National American Woman Suffrage Association which had a wider membership but focused exclusively on campaigns for women's suffrage, dropping the causes of employer discrimination, equality pay and laws allowing for an easier divorce process. As a result many activists focusing on these issues left the ranks of the new organization, including Stanton. Anthony believed women's suffrage should be the primary goal of the movement, all other causes could be sought later. She continued seeking that goal until her death in 1906.