This clip is from an hour-long program (and video) we produced for ABC Television in 1995. It’s called “Susan B. Anthony Slept Here,” and was based on the book of the same name I wrote (with Jurate Kazickas) to illustrate the many landmarks in America where women made history.
As a woman who has chronicled so much of our history – in books, on TV, and on the news – I care deeply that Americans, particularly female Americans, appreciate the women who made our lives possible. And the one who shines above all others for me is Susan B. Anthony. I’ve made it my personal goal to keep her legacy alive, because her tireless dedication to getting us the right to vote inspires me every single day.
Born a Quaker, she grew up believing in racial and gender equality at a time when such radical notions were unthinkable. She personally discovered sex discrimination while working as a schoolteacher, noting the paltry pay she and other women got compared to their male colleagues. A committed reformer, she became a temperance worker, then an abolitionist, honing her political skills into a potent lance for women’s rights.
On top of all that, she was funny and curious and a loyal friend.
Susan B. Anthony was called The General in the suffrage wars, a relentless force for what she always called The Cause. She once told a reporter, “All we can do is agitate, agitate, agitate.” She also recognized that the only sure way to empower women was to give them the vote. “Woman will never have equality of rights anywhere, she never will hold those she now has by an absolute tenure, until she possesses the fundamental right of self-representation,” she wrote in 1902.
Anthony’s home in Rochester – the centerpiece of this clip – remains a living symbol of the first stirrings of feminism in America. I can’t go there without a shudder of appreciation for the woman who helped make it happen. I want everyone – especially young women – to understand her role in our lives, and to understand that the freedoms we enjoy today were earned by women like Susan B. Anthony.
Lynn Sherr is an award-winning correspondent with the ABC Newsmagazine “20/20.” Throughout her long career in television and in print, she has covered a wide range of stories, from politics to space to investigative reports, with a special emphasis on social change and women’s issues. Her books include Susan B. Anthony Slept Here: A Guide to American Women’s Landmarks (co-author, 1994); Failure is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words (1996); Tall Blondes: A Book About Giraffes (1997); and America the Beautiful: The Stirring True Story Behind Our Nation’s Favorite Song (2001). She is currently working on a memoir.
To see enhanced versions of these objects, please access the multimedia version of this page.