On November 5th, 1872, fully four decades prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment and the enshrinement of women's suffrage throughout the United States, Susan B. Anthony cast a vote in the presidential election of that year in her home town of Rochester, NY.
For decades, Anthony had been a tireless advocate of women's rights and female suffrage, but on the first day of November, 1872, matters were taken a step further when she and a cohort of like minded ladies strode up to the voter registration office in Rochester and demanded that they be allowed to register, citing the Equal Protection Clause of the recently passed 14th Amendment.
Evidently, Anthony was not expecting to succeed, but rather intended to file a later legal suit after being denied. However, after standing in the office and effectively arguing her case for over an hour, the election inspectors relented and the registration went forward. One of the inspectors, Mr. Beverly Jones, would later recount the scene,
Four days later (on this day of November 5th) Anthony and her compatriots would proudly cast their ballots in the presidential election, voting a straight Republican ticket with Ulysses S. Grant at the very top. Only a few days afterwards, Anthony was arrested for violation of election law. While awaiting trial, Anthony was released on bail and took the opportunity to speak out against the greater injustice being visited not only upon her, but upon millions of American women,
When the trial eventually took place in June, it was ruled that the protection of the 14th Amendment did not extend to women's voting rights, and Anthony was slapped with a $100 fine and told to foot the bill for the cost of her prosecution - she defiantly refused payment. Preferring to let the matter the rest, officials made no real attempt to collect the debt.
There are some moments when the stories of great Americans make you proud to be one yourself; this is one such moment. Take a moment on this day to picture Anthony standing in that voter registration office, forcefully demanding that her voice be heard and then picture your mother, your sister your daughter - or yourself for that matter - standing beside her. How inexpressibly moved she must have been to cast her ballot on Election Day.
What an amazing legacy we are left to inherit and what a powerful story this country has to tell.
This post goes out to my kick ass mom, Dr. Suzanne Richards.