Women known to fame
How Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton record history
“If you want to know how mother and Susan B Anthony act together,” said Mrs Lawrence, Mrs Elisabeth Cady Stanton’s daughter, “I’ll give you a letter I wrote about them when they were writing their old history of woman’s suffrage.”
The letter was written in 1885, but Mrs Lawrence asserts that things are much the same now as then. It was dated at Tenafly, NJ, where Mrs Stanton was living.
“Mother and Susan,” wrote Mrs Lawrence, “are busy all day and far into the night on volume 3 of ‘The History of Woman Suffrage.’ As our house faces the south, the sunshine streams in all day. In the center of a large room, 20 by 22, with an immense bay window, hardwood floor and open fire, beside a substantial office desk with innumerable drawers and doors, there, vis-a-vis, sit the historians, surrounded with manuscripts and letters from Maine to Louisiana. In the center of the desk are two inkstands and two bottles of mucilage, to say nothing of divers pens, pencils, scissors, knives and erasers.
“As these famous women grow intense in working up some glowing sentence or pasting some thrilling quotation from John Stuart Mill, Dumas or Secretan, I have seen them again and again dip their pens in the mucilage and their brushes in the ink. These blunders bring them back to the facts of history, where indeed they should be if that blessed word finis is ever to be written. Sub rosa, it is as good as a comedy to watch these souls from day today.
“They start off pretty well in the morning. They are fresh and amiable. They write page after page with alacrity; they laugh and talk, poke the fire by turns and admire the flowers I have placed on their desk. Everything is harmonious for a season.
“But after straining their eyes over the most illegible, disorderly manuscripts I ever beheld, suddenly the whole literary sky is overspread. From the adjoining room I hear a hot dispute. The dictionary, the encyclopedia, all the journals neatly piled in a corner, are overhauled and tossed about in the most emphatic manner.
“Susan is punctilious on dates, mother on philosophy, but each contends as stoutly in the other’s domain as if it were her own particular province. Sometimes these disputes run so high that down go the pens, and one sails out of one door and one out of the other. And then, just as I have made up my mind that this beautiful friendship of 40 years has at last terminated, I see them, arm in arm, walking down the hill to a seat where we often go to watch the sun set in all his glory.
“When they return, they go straight to work where they left off as if nothing had happened. I never hear another word on that point. The one that was unquestionably right assumes it, and the other silently concedes the fact. They never explain, nor apologize, nor shed tears, nor make up, as other people do, but figuratively speaking jump over a stone wall at one bound and leave the past behind them.”
As Mrs Lawrence said, things are much the same now with the two friends as they were eight years ago, when Mrs Stanton was only threescore years and ten, and Miss Anthony was not yet out of her sixties.
They live in peace and harmony still. Miss Anthony is still the authority on dates, and Mrs Stanton still writes the “state papers.” They are still criticised and sometimes ridiculed, but they are too strong in their own convictions and too broad-minded in their tolerance to do otherwise than laugh about it.
And they are still planning for greater work than ever. To the constitutional convention of next May is to be presented a petition signed by a million men and women over 21 years of age asking that the word “male” be expunged from the constitution. At any rate, that is the work planned by these two friends. – New York Sun
Photo: Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (Courtesy Library of Congress, Washington, DC)