One hundred and ninety-five years ago today, suffragist and feminist Susan B. Anthony was born in Adams, MA. This most awesome woman was born into a politically active Quaker family. She was still a child when she started work in the anti-slavery movement. She dedicated the majority of her life to fighting for women’s rights including equal pay for equal work, the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to sign petitions and speak publicly. Like many women suffragists, she was also active in the temperance movement.
She was the more active half of a famous example of true friendship. Her partner-in-crime, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was married with 7 children, so she mainly stayed home, wrote, edited and womanned the fort while the unmarried, childless Anthony traveled across the US and spoke out for women.
Although abortion now is quite different than abortion in 1800’s, her views on the procedure are beyond debate. She refused to advertise abortion providers and abortifacient drugs in her publication The Revolution. The Revolution did publish, however, an anonymous essay containing the following quote:
Guilty? Yes, no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh! Thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification, heedless of her prayers, indifferent to her fate, drove her to the desperation which impels her to the crime.
Anthony herself said this in response to a man who complimented her saying she would have made a good mother:
I thank you, sir… but sweeter even than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so that their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them.
In speaking about the evils of society perpetuated by men, Anthony lists abortion.
The prosecutions on our courts for breach of promise, divorce, adultery, bigamy, seduction, rape; the newspaper reports every day of every year of scandals and outrages, of wife murders and paramour shooting, of abortions and infanticides, are perpetual reminders of men’s incapacity to cope successfully with this monster evil of society.
We also have found in her diary a couple passages in which she mourns her sister-in-law’s abortion.
While it is unclear whether she would be for criminalizing abortion, she clearly saw it as murder and fought for a better life for both mother and child. If she were alive today, she would speak out against abortion. She would agree with pro-life feminist Sidney Callahan who says, “Women will never climb to equality and social empowerment over mounds of dead fetuses.” (By the way, fetus is just Latin for ‘baby.’)