circa 1898: American abolitionist and suffragette Susan B Anthony (1820 - 1906).   (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

Never Heard of Susan B. Anthony (1880)

This strongly worded letter to the Pittsburgh Leader on March 21, 1880 was reproduced in the April 1880 issue of the National Citizen and Ballot Box suffrage newspaper published by Matilda Joslyn Gage.

Editor Leader:

However startling, incredible and surprising it may appear, it is yet an actual fact that there is a so-called intelligent woman in this town who has never heard of Susan B. Anthony. A woman, too, who lives in luxury, wears satin de Lyon and sealskin and diamonds, a woman who can command leisure enough to read all the papers and no end of books, and yet she said she had never heard of Susan B., and confessed it, too, with all the nonchalance and coolness in the world. Good heavens I Maria, said her friend, do you never read the papers? Oh, yes, she answered, but I never read anything but the marriages and deaths and the “wants.” It is a great waste of time, you know, to read newspapers. Think of it! A woman so given over to tucking, ruffling, embroidering, tatting, pillow-shamming and crewel work, that she cannot read the papers. Think of a woman so given over to dressing, visiting, shopping, tea-partying and “sich,” that she knows nothing of the every day history of the world she lives in, except as regards the marriages, deaths and “wants” of our own dirty little corner of the earth. Think of a woman content to live along without knowledge, without reading, without a desire to know. Think of a woman who in these days of woman’s rights, has never heard of Susan B. Anthony. Surely she must be one of those dear, delightful ignoramuses—the angelical ideal of many men—who is shut up in that awfully hallowed spot which they calla “woman’s sphere,” and without a thought beyond. What a sweet, delightful, interesting, entertaining companion such a woman must be.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Women’s Suffrage Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily (1849-1856), National Citizen and Ballot Box (1878-1881), The Revolution (1868-1872), The New Citizen (1909-1912), The Western Woman Voter (1911-1913), and the antisuffrage newspaper, The Remonstrance (1890-1913).

Never heard of Susan B. Anthony. Well!

Never Heard of Susan B. Anthony (1880)

Never Heard of Susan B. Anthony (1880)

And yet, Susan B. has been the butt of the reporters for years and years. Susan B., as an old maid of the most cross-grained and cantankerous type, has been dinned and drummed into our ears until jokes at her expense are as stale as Methusaleh and as old as the everlasting hills. Never heard of Susan B. Anthony.

And yet, Susan B. year after year appears at Washington in behalf of women, and every year’s vote shows that she is nearing the desired end. Every year of her life since 1848 she has been besieging legislatures, conventions —political, educational and otherwise—in behalf of woman’s equality, and every year with increased success. And yet, this Pittsburg woman never heard of her When we think of a condition of such dense ignorance in the midst of elegance and wealth, we are overcome with surprise, not to say utterly and entirely disgusted.

For fear there may be other women in our city in the same benighted condition as the “Maria” referred to, we propose to give a brief sketch of Miss Anthony, and we hope that Maria’s friends will proceed to post her immediately, and break the fact of Susan B.’s existence to her gently yet firmly; and finally convince her that Susan’s marriage or death would be of little interest apart from her noble life, her great deeds, her grand record.

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