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Throwback Thursday: Susan B. Anthony’s Arrest 1872

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Susan B. Anthony Rochester Image One
Image Credit: University of Rochester

Champion of temperance, abolition, the rights of labor and equal pay for equal work, Susan Brownell Anthony became one of the most visible leaders of the women’s suffrage movement. Along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she traveled around the country delivering speeches in favor of women’s suffrage.

[She] was born on February 15, 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts. Her father, Daniel, was a farmer and, later, a cotton mill owner and manager, […] raised as a Quaker. Her mother, Lucy, came from a family that fought in the American Revolution and served in the Massachusetts state government. From an early age, Anthony was inspired by the Quaker belief that everyone was equal under God. That idea guided her throughout her life.

National Women’s History Museum
Susan B. Anthony

Nancy Hayward
2018

On November 1, 1872, Susan B. Anthony and [three] other women attempted to register to vote in the U.S. presidential election. When registrars hesitated, Anthony overwhelmed them with legal arguments and the men relented. On Election Day, November 5, Anthony voted for Ulysses S. Grant. She was one of fifteen women from her Rochester ward to cast a ballot. Attempting to vote was actually a common tactic among suffrage activists. Anthony’s action commanded outsized attention because she and her colleagues actually voted.

Anthony was arrested on November 18, 1872, for violating the federal Enforcement Act of 1870 […].

Freethought Trail
The Arrest of Susan B. Anthony

Robert Green Ingersoll Memorial Committee

Susan B. Anthony NYT Image Two
Image Credit: The New York Times

Nine days after the election, U.S. Commissioner William C. Storrs, an officer of the federal courts, issued warrants for the arrest of Anthony and the fourteen other women who voted in Rochester. Three days later […] a deputy federal marshal called on Anthony. He asked her to accompany him downtown to see the commissioner.

Anthony’s trial began in Canandaigua, New York, on June 17, 1873. Before pronouncing the sentence for her crime, Justice [Ward] Hunt asked Anthony if she had anything to say. She did. In the most famous speech in the history of the agitation for [women’s] suffrage, she condemned [the] proceeding that had “trampled under foot every vital principle of our government.” She had not received justice under “forms of law all made by men…” “…failing, even, to get a trial by a jury not of my peers.” Sentenced to pay a fine of $100 and the costs of the prosecution, she swore to “never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.” Justice Hunt said Anthony would not be held in custody awaiting payment of her fine.

The Trial of Susan B. Anthony
Federal Judicial Center
Web Archive

May 31, 2010

A month after the trial, a deputy federal marshal was dispatched to collect Anthony’s fine. He reported that a careful search had failed to find any property that could be seized to pay the fine. The court took no further action.