The Import of the Woman Movement
February 15, 1934 — at the Monument to the Founders of the Woman Movement of the World, on Susan B. Anthony’s Birthday, Crypt of US Capitol, Washington DC
TODAY we are privileged to honor ourselves by paying tribute to Susan B. Anthony on this anniversary of her birth. Invincible leader, first of the few of such hosta as never before moved to one call, the uprise of woman. A Leader for more than a half century in the crusade of half the human race. Mother of the whole — demanding individual liberty.
Susan B. Anthony, the most persecuted at the beginning, the most honored at the end, of any other human being within the span of one life time.
I might entertain you with reminiscences, as we were intimate friends for more than twenty years, the friendship beginning in 1886, but to give light or information is my role. This monument was not made for entertainment, but as an immortal record of the mightiest thing in the evolution of humanity that has taken place since the dawn of mind in the brute, for the revolution embodied in the woman movement represents the potentiality if not yet the dawn of ethics in the human race.
The awakening of woman is the Central and Supreme fact in the world of today, notwithstanding the temporary eclipse by the tragic fact of man murdering man. To platitudinize is not to eulogize so great a character as Susan B. Anthony. Instead I choose to give you briefly the purport of her life and masterful leadership of a movement which was without precedent.
TO realize this you must know that never before the movement that resulted from that call at Seneca Falls in 1848 had there been a sustained demand for liberty, that is individual liberty, freedom to become — for the human unit regardless of sex.
All former revolutions were revolts of group against group, or against tyranny within nations, or of nations against the aggression of other nations, with precedents since time immemorial, but ourmovement was a revolt with equal reasonto be and claim upon every nation, everyrace upon the face of our Globe, as womencompose the half of each.
IT belittles not, nor does it lessen our reverence to say in our own country-with parallels in all countries–George Washington hailed, honored and beloved as the “Father of His Country,” was but a conventional revolutionist, leading a rebellion against monarchical tyranny, a form of rebellion with precedents back into unrecorded time. Or to say, Abraham Lincoln, great master spirit of the nineteenth century, so great in spiritual personality that his successful guidance of the destiny of our nation through a supreme crisis has made him a world figure for example and inspiration, was but the Emancipator of a small portion of a race from physical slavery, and even the rescuing of the union is but the story of one nation. The Woman Movement for the liberation of half of humanity was a rebellion against the most formidable tyranny possible to any portion of humanity–the tyranny of sex. A Revolution had been begun, a directing general was an inevitable necessity. To this situation, this need, responded the tall Quaker girl, Susan B. Anthony, whom the great Channing later called “The Napoleon of the Woman Movement,” and of whom later yet, the editor Arthur Brisbane said, “there never was a nobler, more unselfish soldier of the human race. The world might well have wept, had that child been born a boy instead of being Susan B. Anthony.”
THUS as Leader of the infant Woman Movement which was verily unprecedented, with implications impossible in any past revolution or of repetition in the future, came Miss Anthony. Every century and every country have produced great individual women as rulers and otherwise. To go no further back, England’s two greatest reigns were the Elizabethan and Victorian. From Salerno, Italy, where women were admitted to the medical schools for a thousand years, noted physicians came. In earlier centuries from Bologna came famous learned women. Each country has supplied its quota of such evidence of woman’s inherent capacity to rise. And an actual movement for Equal Rights was begun during the French Revolution. The proposer of seventeen articles and propounder of their justice experienced Equal Rights to the guillotine, with which that movement perished, but it was at Seneca Falls, New York, 1848, that began the first movement to succeed. That did not die, but grew until for the first time in human history a cause reached every country and expanded to every field of endeavor.
This crusade was made with but one weapon–a Righteous Idea–the right of the human unit to freedom. Suffrage, the struggle which was so prolonged and made so spectacular by the opposition, was but one item, and became impinged upon the mass mind but will pass, as mere processes pass, as the mightier thing “Equal Rights,” freedom of the human unit, becomes established.
SUSAN B. ANTHONY, whose birth we celebrate today, was perhaps the one leader or general of all time who experienced the extremes of persecution and adulation during the span of a lifetime. For decades she suffered every form of contumely from the class in position and power to whom she had to make appeal.
She was pelted and driven from the platform when speaking, and experienced mob attack from the rabble. She was arrested for casting a ballot, and at her trial she made famous and grand Woman’s Militancy in her defiance and refusal to submit to the law of a pretending nation, a Government founded upon and established by a war for “No Taxation Without Representation.”
Miss Anthony — always majestic in bearing.
Miss Anthony — the most perfectly, because always appropriately, gowned woman I have ever known.
Miss Anthony — the unimpeachable in every act and aspect of life and its conduct.
EVEN as late as 1874, a telegram was sent over the country and published by the ever-ready press, saying, “Miss Anthony stalked down the aisle with faded alpaca dress to the top of her boots, blue cotton umbrella, and white cotton gloves, perched herself on the platform, crossed her legs, pulled out her snuff box and passed it around. On the platform were Mrs. Stanton and other noted women, all dressed in unmentionables, cut bias, and smoking penny drab cigars. Susan was quite drunk.” Such libels typified the attacks from without. There were also all the tortures of scorn and ostracism.
In contrast, less than a quarter of a century later the same Rochester that hissed her from the platform in the sixties opened its newspaper columns wide in praise to “Our Beloved Susan.” Two thousand hands grasped by the “Grand Old Woman.”
Still another paper put it, “She had come to stand before her audiences like a vision of the spirit of prophecy, so imbued with her unselfish longing, that the Angel of the Covenant who has held up her hands and kept her from fainting revealed her as the unselfish representative of her great idea.
“Well may we love and reverence her, for she has given to us all that was hers, and crowned the giving with herself.”
ALL Rochester was “at her feet,” then, but then also all the world had arrived “at her feet.”
This arrival of recognition was culminatingly evidenced at the quinquennial sessions of the International Council of Women, first at Chicago in 1893, in London in 1899, and at Berlin in 1904.
Susan B. Anthony was the dominant figure by virtue of her great historical significance which was well sustained by her splendid personality on these surpassing occasions. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not hearsay, I was present.
Thus, even if any others may have experienced the extremes of vilification and recognition, during life, in their own country, our statement holds true, for Susan B. Anthony’s recognition was not only -national but international.
The very titles given to our leader by her illustrious contemporaries indicate the two extremes within her that meet in master souls. . . Militancy and Christ likeness.
A poem to “Our Maiden Mars” was written to her on her fiftieth birthday by John Hooker and read at its celebration by Isabella Beecher Hooker.
IN her other or Christlike aspect, she was called “The Sir Galahad in search of the Holy Grail,” and by the eminent divine, Dr. H. W. Thomas of Chicago, designated as “Saint of Liberty,” so much like the Christ.
Lightly we listen to the words “a half century,” they somehow sound well, but how many can even remotely grasp such a toil of Calvary of a half hundred years as was hers. No word of Susan B. Anthony can be complete without a culmination in the two initiators of the woman movement, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. These three form a unique historic unit in the nature of a Trinity, the one of which could not have done her work without the other. They became the embodiment of an idea. Of this trinity, Susan B. Anthony, peerless as an erect monolith reaching skyward out on the desert, whither humanity might journey as to a shrine, will forever stand, alone, at the end of an age that produced her and her great contemporaries. Certain it is beyond chance of a doubt, the country where started the woman movement, the one universal movement for humanity’s rescue from its savage self, will have a unique and undisputed distinction in the annals of history.
SUSAN B. ANTHONY was the chief and invincible leader for years, more than fifty, of that movement.
In thinking of Susan B. Anthony and her mission, one may think in terms of imponderable forces that unceasingly proceed with their mighty operations in obedience to and in fulfillment of immutable laws regardless of the smallness of unevolved humans with their failures and interpretations.
As was her character and mission, Susan B. Anthony’s face is a masterful, patrician face, struck as from a mint of aspiring centuries.
In conclusion, let me say that perhaps the National Woman’s Party in placing this monument in our Capitol where “they who have rendered signal service to the Nation,” are admitted, perhaps did not realize that in that act they were placing an everlasting jewel in their own crown of service.
Source: Equal Rights Magazine, March 10, 1934.