Death takes the world’s greatest woman — The good she did lives after her — Benefactor of her sex
by Isabel Worrell Ball
Miss Susan B Anthony is dead.
After a short sharp and unequal struggle with death, the grim monster claimed his prey, and there passed from earth one of the greatest women who ever lived. She was the Abraham Lincoln of her sex, and when that is said, what greater praise can be spoken of her?
Hers was not a martial spirit; she hated war; the shams of society scarified her soul; she despised the rum power; she loathed the institution of human slavery; she scorned the narrow bands of religious sect. Yet she was a home-loving, child-adoring, domestically-inclined woman, shrinkingly sensitive, great-hearted, justice-loving, whole-souled and generous to a fault.
Through the greater part of 60 years of strenuously active public life, Miss Anthony was probably the most maligned woman who ever trod the earth.
In her girlhood, she was spit upon, taunted, rotten-egged, stoned, her life threatened, and she was reviled and persecuted. Yet in all those 60 years, not once was her honor impugned, her integrity questioned. The ridicule and the abuse heaped upon her never once reached deep enough to soil her soul, and when she passed away Sunday, March 10 [actual date of death was March 13, 1906], she know that in the whole wide world no woman was more respected, more highly-esteemed, more extensively known than Susan B Anthony.
Do you question why? The answer is as simple as the life she lived. She had principles and stood by them.
Through stress and storm in her long life, she saw before her but one narrow uncurving path. She walked in that path with her head up, her spirit undaunted, her soul fired by the enthusiasm that lights the torches of reform and keeps them burning. Her whole life for 70 active years was a protest against existing political conditions, and a protest against the exclusion of women from the exercise of what she considered their right to the franchise.
While thousands of women and hundreds of thousands of men did not agree with her in this, they had all come to know this forceful thinker, this logical reasoner, this powerful exponent of the rights of women, and they respected her for the sacrifices she had made to a sentiment which had worked out for women a tremendously important place in the world’s work.
Susan B Anthony was a Quaker, strange as that statement may seem of one who was so ready with her tongue. She was born of Quaker parents and educated in a Quaker school.
“Speak only when the spirit moves thee, and then not till thee has something to say,” was her girlhood motto. It served her all her life, and that is why no man on the public platform where she was able to face and answer his sneers and scoffings was ever able to stand before her long.
She was a hard hitter; she knew the English language and its power, and when, in the shortest sentences and the simplest words, she fired logic at the head of an opponent, he was glad to seek shelter. She spoke often from the platform with men in political campaigns, and commanded the highest praise for the forcible utterances with which she met their invective and the sarcasm which they used for logic.
She was not a man-hater
Miss Anthony was styled a man-hater! A more untruthful thing was never uttered about her.
She loved all mankind and all women. Her great generous heart simply bubbled over with the milk of human kindness, and no one ever heard her utter one single sentence which could be construed into meaning that she hated men. That she never loved a man was her misfortune, but his good fortune, she once said to the writer. “I would have liked to love a man just to see what sort of a sensation it is,” she once said laughingly. “I had lovers when I was young — at least there were several men who thought themselves in love with me, but I don’t think the disease had eaten very deep into their hearts; at any rate I did not love them, and so nothing ever came of any of these affairs.”
Miss Anthony dearly loved young people, and she believed that a woman was happier if married to a man she loved. She believed firmly in the existence of the divine passion. Children she adored, and they instinctively loved her. She hated the sham and pretense of the present methods of education, and believed that it injured many children permanently.
And how she did detest the frivolous, shallow, fault-finding, whining mother! “Figs will not come of thistles,” she declared sententiously.
She thought that the crying need of womankind was “work.” Something to do that would develop their brains, their bodies, their souls. And she firmly believed that a means to this end was the ballot.
Susan B Anthony’s life work
To review the lifework of Susan B Anthony would be to write the history of the woman movement for the last 50 years.
She was born in 1820 — her 80th birthday was celebrated in this city on February 15 — and at 16, was teaching school. For this, she drew the munificent salary of $8 a month and boarded round. Men did exactly the same kind of work that she did, and got $16 a month and boarded round. She asked the School Board why she wasn’t worth just as much money as the man who was doing her kind of work. Her answer was a demand for her resignation.
That is a fair example of the conditions existing at that time. Women did nothing outside of the home but cook, wash, iron, scrub, sew, and it was with quaking hearts that School Boards sometimes permitted them to play at teaching school. If they asked too many troublesome questions, they were fired as Miss Anthony was.
That was 70 years ago. Since then, for women what? Everything! There is not today a calling or a profession a business or a trade into which women have not penetrated, and in many instances, appropriated.
Teaching? Why, women have almost a monopoly of it. They are now lawyers, doctors, surgeons, preachers — oh, it would be impossible in the limits of this article to enumerate the things that women may do today, unmolested by public opinion, unharmed by the tongue of scandal. And back to Susan B Anthony all this freedom may be traced.
One day when she was sweet 16, or maybe a little older, she had the temerity — she and two or three other teachers — to attend a teacher’s conference. Hitherto only male teachers had at tended conferences. Miss Anthony and her friends created the utmost surprise when they walked meekly in and quietly sat down in the back part of the hall. Soon Miss Anthony asked a question, or maybe it was to show some “male” that he had given utterance to a fallacy that she spoke.
Anyhow, she spoke, and that was an unheard of audacity — for a woman. The Chairman so informed her. She declared that she was a teacher, belonged to that particular district conference, and she would speak when it so pleased her and she had something to say or words to that effect. she nearly broke up the meeting the males present openly sneered, openly scoffed, and a little later retreated with bleeding backs from the logic of her tongue lashing.
That was the opening wedge. Miss Anthony pounded that wedge day after day for 70 years, and she saw before she died that the selfish old world had cracked wide open to women in every way shape and form, except to accord her the privilege of the ballot. This, she firmly believed, they would ultimately receive.
Miss Anthony’s legacy
But, oh, the pathos of it. As that strong sweet old soul, worn to saintliness by its struggle with the selfishness and cupidity of nature, was winging for flight, Miss Anthony’s tired eyes opened for the last time, and she cried out wearily, “To think that I have had more than 60 years of hard struggle for a little liberty, and then to die without it seems so cruel!”
Rev Anna Howard Shaw, who was with her, said, “Your legacy will be freedom for all womankind after you are gone. Your splendid struggle has changed life for women everywhere.”
She replied, “If it has, I have lived to some purpose.”
That reply of Miss Shaw’s should be a beacon light for every woman. A woman’s right to herself, her right to property, her right to her children, her position as a factor in the worlds work today, is due to the fight made under the leadership of Susan B Anthony.
Miss Anthony was several times abroad on suffrage missions, but two years ago, when she made her last trip to attend the great International Council of Women, she was received like a Queen. The Empress of Germany received her as a guest in her palace. Queens and crowned heads all over Europe were pleased to do her honor. Miss Anthony accepted it all for the “cause.”
The blessed woman never could seem to believe that all the homage, all the adulation, all the honor, was for a woman who represented principles, and not for the principles themselves, although it must be said that in honoring the grand old woman of America, the world was also honoring, if not accepting, the truths for which she gave her heart, her soul, her money, aye, her very life.
Miss Anthony’s brain was as clear the day she died as it had been at any time during her life. To the end, she carried herself erect, well-poised, almost regal in appearance. She would have attracted attention in any crowd. She was not above five feet seven inches, but looked taller because she had a slender, well-built figure. She had a strong face like those of the ideal Roman matrons, with clear bright blue eyes, and wore her crown of snow white hair just the same way that she wore it when she first put up her braids 70 years ago, and as you see it in the picture.
Miss Anthony was not handsome. She had not a good complexion; she had a mouth whose outlines were stern; her jaws were too square; the whole expression of her face in her earlier womanhood altogether too stern for the ideal “motherly” woman. In later years, this expression softened wonderfully, and when I saw her last, only a few days before her death, dressed for her birthday celebration in rich black satin with point-lace collar and undersleeves, and about her fine, square shoulders the red crepe shawl that had become famous, I thought her one or the world s magnificent women.
Miss Anthony left all her little property to the “cause,” and to the Congressional Library, her precious manuscripts, collections of suffrage literature, the finest and completest in the world, and many autograph letters. Besides, she left to the world in four large volumes the history of the woman movement and of suffrage, written under her own eye and largely at her own dictation by Mrs Ida Husted Harper, one of the brilliant and brainy younger women who was, for years, Miss Anthony’s chosen friend and her biographer.
The good that Miss Anthony did will not be “interred with her bones.” It has so many million living witnesses among the women who have profited by the life battle of Miss Anthony that they can never forget what she has done for them, nor can the world of women who think ever fail to emulate her splendid example.
But despite all this, the loss to the world of such a life is like the going out of a great light.