On August 18th, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, President Donald Trump formally pardoned Susan B. Anthony, a prominent leader in the women’s suffrage movement.
Anthony’s work in pursuit of the right to vote for women began in the 1850s and continued up until her death in 1906 at the age of 86. The pardon specifically overturned Anthony’s unjust conviction for “illegally” voting in the 1872 presidential election at a time when only men were legally able to vote. Anthony was brought to trial, and as noted by the White House press release, “in clear violation of her rights to trial by jury and due process, she was convicted by way of a directed verdict issued by the presiding judge — Supreme Court Justice Ward Hunt.”
She was fined $100, which she never paid. In order to prevent her from appealing her case to a higher court, the Judge chose not to jail her for failing to pay the fine.
The White House press release about the pardon read:
Today, President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Grant of Clemency (Full Pardon) posthumously to Susan B. Anthony, a peerless advocate for women’s suffrage, for a wrongful and unjust conviction stemming from the only vote she ever cast in an election. As we commemorate the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment—known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment—this grant of full clemency recognizes and pays tribute to the advocacy, perseverance, and leadership of a truly remarkable woman and an American hero.
While many people are familiar with Susan B. Anthony’s support for “allowing married women to own property, keep their own wages, and have custody of their children,” as well as her work to abolish slavery, fewer know that she also had an opinion about abortion. She seems to have shared the position of Feminists for Life, that “abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women.”
While historians correctly point out that suffrage was her main focus, in an 1875 speech called “Social Purity,” she specifically listed abortion as one of a number of societal ills resulting from male domination of and injustice towards women. Additionally, The Revolution, a paper she co-founded with fellow suffragist and mother of seven Elizabeth Cady Stanton, published a piece by an anonymous author (which many believe to have been Anthony herself) called “Marriage and Maternity,” which specifically addressed abortion:
All the articles on this subject (abortion) that I have read have been from men. They denounce women as alone guilty, and never include man in any plans for the remedy. . . 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 (abortion). It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; But oh, thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime!
Elsewhere, she noted in her private diary that her sister-in-law, who became ill after a self-induced abortion, “would rue the day she forces nature.”
While post-Roe feminism often pits women against their preborn children in a zero sum game of rights, that competitive, cynical attitude has not always been part and parcel of the feminist cause. Many of Susan B. Anthony’s fellow suffragists spoke specifically about abortion as a social ill, rightly understanding that the betterment of women would not be achieved by the detriment of their children.
Susan B. Anthony devoted her life to achieving acknowledgement of women’s equality with men. Pro-lifers share a similar desire, striving for the recognition of the rights not just of the powerful in society, but of all.
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