Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15, 1820. This year-long blog celebrates not only her 200th birthday,
but also her work, life, and the progress toward universal woman's suffrage as well as the 100th anniversary
of the year-long effort to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.

During this year I will be adding stories from my imagined kitchen conversations with Susan B. Anthony and recipes from her era.
I am beginning this week because on June 4, 1919, women were one step closer to getting the vote when the United States Congress
passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Just over a year later, on August 18, 1920, Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify,
thus achieving passage by the required three-fourths of the nation's then 48 states states.
By 1984 all of the states that had been in the union at the time had finally ratified the amendment.

As essays are added, I'll mark them as "POSTED" on this Overview page and provide a link through for the stories and recipes of this year of celebration.

RECIPE for Susan B. Anthony's favorite kind of Old Fashioned Sponge Cake is at the bottom of this post. Scroll down to find the easy-to-make recipe.

Monday, May 13, 2019

1872 Susan Casts a Presidential Election Ballot and is Arrested

This cartoon of Susan B. Anthony appeared on the front page of
the New York Daily Graphic just before her trial. With the
caption "The Woman who Dared." The men in the
background are shown doing "womanly" chores, carrying
groceries and taking care of the babies. The paper declared that
if she won at trial, this would be the new world view.

My kitchen island was full. The main-dish casserole, vegetables, and bread were next to the insulated tote for hot foods, while the salad and dessert were next to the cold-food tote. It was my turn to take supper over to the neighbor.

The now-familiar voice assessed the situation.

Looks like you are planning quite a picnic.

I explained that my neighbor has just come home from the hospital with her new baby daughter. I thought I could see Susan's joy-filled smile at the prospect of another woman voter.

Wonderful!  Providing meals is such a lovely community tradition. Shall I tell you how the ladies of Rochester’s Eighth Ward ended up taking supper to jail birds?

Yes, please.  This was a story I really wanted to hear.

It was all my fault.  You see, when I cast my 1872 presidential election ballot, I told the election judges who were in charge of the polling place that if they got into trouble for letting me vote I would help.  They did…and I did.
After working for woman’s suffrage for twenty years, how did you come to vote for the first time in the 1872 presidential election?

An article in the November 1, 1872, issue of the Rochester Democrat newspaper brought me to my feet.

I had resolved for three years to vote at the first election that occurred when I had been at home for thirty days, the residency requirement. And then I read the newspaper headline “Now register!” and the article that described the importance of voting: “If you are not permitted to vote you would fight for that right, undergo all privations for it, face death for it. …less than a week hence, hundreds of you are likely to lose your votes because you have not thought it worth while to give the five minutes.”  I felt I could do nothing less than go and register.

My three sisters and I registered at the barber shop that served as the polling place for Rochester’s Eighth Ward. So did fifty other women all across the city of Rochester. On Election Day only the fifteen of us who cast votes in our ward had our ballots accepted. When the three election inspectors hesitated to receive our votes, I assured them that, should they be prosecuted, I would bear all the expenses of the suit.

 But women didn’t get the right to vote until the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in time for the 1920 presidential election, right?

Yes.  But many of us in the woman’s suffrage movement considered the ground had been laid with 1868 the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. After all, it declares that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens thereof, and of the State wherein they reside, and as such entitled to the unabridged exercise of the privileges and immunities of all citizens, among which are the rights of the elective franchise.” And so we took this opportunity to put it to the test, thinking that if we were not successful, it would be the basis for a federal lawsuit.

The passage two years later of the Fifteenth Amendment settled forever the question of a citizen’s right to vote, or so we believed.  As it says: “The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.”

So we registered and then went to the polls. I cast my ballot for incumbent President U.S. Grant.

How did Mrs. Stanton react?

I described Election Day in a letter to her. “Well, I have been and gone and done it, positively voted this morning at 7 o’clock, and swore my vote in at that. Not a jeer, not a rude word, not a disrespectful look has met one woman. Now if all our suffrage women would work to this end of enforcing the constitutional supremacy of National over state law, what strides we might make from now on; but now, I’m so tired! I’ve been on the go constantly for five days, but to good purpose, so all right. I hope you too voted.”  But she didn’t in that election. She did try to vote in the 1880 presidential election between Garfield and Hancock, but her ballot was not accepted. 

So then what happened?

Those of us who were working to bring about woman's suffrage thought it important not only to vote, but to bring the legal arguments to a hearing. We succeeded. About two weeks after the election, Deputy United States Marshall Keeney arrived at my door to arrest me. He waited until I changed into a suitable dress and he refused to put me in handcuffs. We rode the streetcar to the court house. Charges were also brought against my three sisters and the other eleven women who voted in our ward, but I was the only one brought to trial.

After a series of preliminary hearings that winter, my case came to trial in June 1873.  I spent the months between the arraignment in December 1872 and trial giving my speech, “Is It a Crime for a U.S. Citizen to Vote?” throughout the area. I felt it was my duty to educate citizens on the issue. Some of them might be in the jury, and, according to federal law, I would not be allowed to testify.

There was a difficulty with our logic. You see, both the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were put into the Constitution specifically to address the end of slavery.  When Congress awarded full rights of citizenship to former slaves and persons of color in the Fourteenth Amendment, they put the word “male” into the Constitution. The leadership of our woman’s movement urged congressmen not to insert it. As Mrs. Stanton said, “once male is in the Constitution it will take us 100 years to remove it.”

 What happened at your trial?

When the trial began on June 17, 1873, there were two days of witnesses. Then Judge Hunt presented his opinion. He declared that there was no question for the jury to decide, as he deemed the evidence quite clear against me. He directed the jury to return a guilty verdict.

Judge Hunt imposed a fine and costs. I paid the court costs but refused to pay the fine. In most cases, I would have been jailed for not paying. From jail I could have filed a case that would have led to a hearing before the Supreme Court. That was one of our goals. My lawyer, John Van Voorhis, summed up the result: “There never before was a trial in the country of one-half the importance as this of Miss Anthony’s.  If she had won her case on the merits, it would have revolutionized the suffrage of the country and enfranchised every woman in the United States.” As to the fine, “Judge Hunt very adroitly, in imposing a fine of $100 refused to add, what is usual in such cases, that she be imprisoned until the fine be paid. Had he done so, Miss Anthony would have gone to prison, and then taken her case directly to the Supreme Court of the United States by writ of habeas corpus. There she would have been discharged, because trial by jury had been denied her.”

Did you have an opportunity to tell your side? Here Miss Anthony gave a knowing smile.

I certainly did. Just before sentencing, the judge asked the pro forma question: "Do you have anything to say?"  I stood and spoke for several minutes, despite Judge Hunt ordering me to sit down, more than once.  My lawyers arranged to have my remarks printed, and we distributed three thousand copies.  Some have called it “the most famous speech in the history of the agitation for woman’s suffrage.”

What did you say?

I began with this statement.  “The only chance women have for justice in this country is to violate the law, as I have done and as I shall continue to do. …we shall trample all unjust laws under foot. I do not ask the clemency of the court. I came to get justice, having failed in this, I demand the full rigors of the law.”  

Judge Hunt kept ordering me to sit down.  I did not and continued speaking.

“I have many things to say; for in your ordered verdict of guilty, you have trampled underfoot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored. Robbed of the fundamental privilege of citizenship, I am degraded from the status of a citizen to that of a subject; and not only myself individually, but all of my sex, are, by your honor’s verdict, doomed to political subjection under this, so-called, form of government.”

I continued on and ended by saying: “And I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim, that ‘Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.’ ”

And what happened to the inspectors?

They were arrested. Their trial followed mine and the attitude and behavior of Judge Hunt was the same. They were fined, but chose not to pay. Six months later they were arrested for failing to pay their fines.

One of them was bailed out by his father but the other two ended up spending a week in jail. And here’s where our picnic came into play. While I was out of town on speaking engagements, the fourteen ladies who had voted along with me brought meals to them. And when the inspectors were released, my sister Hannah Moser, who lived right next to me on Madison Street, organized a reception. Fifty people came and we had a delightful time. President Grant, for whom I cast my ballot, signed a pardon giving the election judges permanent discharge and remission of their fines. So they were truly free. 

But what about your fine?

In July 1873 the deputy federal marshal came to collect my fine. At that time I was $10,000 in debt owing to the financial difficulties of my newspaper The Revolution. He reported back to the federal court that he “made a diligent search and can find no goods, or chattles [sic] land or tenements” to seize. So the government did not take any further action.  So I was free, too. But still unable to have my vote counted.

So what happened in the eight years between your attempt to cast a presidential election vote and Mrs. Stanton's in 1880?

Not much although Minnesota and Michigan gave women the vote for school board elections in 1875. New York followed in 1880. In 1878 California Senator Aaron Sargent first introduced the federal constitutional amendment granting woman's suffrage. It would have been the Sixteenth Amendment. but it didn't go far.

So why did Mrs.Stanton try to vote?  My friend laughed.

The answer is simple.  They came and asked her. Well, really they came for the men in the household. The republican party horse-drawn campaign wagon,  all decked out with flags and evergreens, was making its way through Tenafly, New Jersey, getting out the vote for President Garfield. They stopped by the Stanton household and Mrs. Stanton said that as "her legal representatives"  meaning her husband and adult sons "were absent so I'll go down and vote." We went down to the polling booth and she filled out a ballot. We had great fun frightening the inspectors. In the end she did not stand her ground and the inspectors were not as open minded as those who accepted my ballot and those of the other Rochester women. 

How did the people in Tenafly react?

The whole town was agape. One of our friends said that he never saw Tenafly in such excitement. The men took positions equally. So I think we were making progress. Slowly, but progress none-the-less.

1/4 cup soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups flour with another1/4 to1/2 cup for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl stir the butter and sugar together. Add the milk and egg and mix until well blended. Add the baking powder, nutmeg, and one cup of the flour. Stir well. Add remaining flour gradually until you have a stiff dough that is not sticky. You may need to add a bit more flour.  To make the cookies--Flour your rolling surface well. Take 1/3 of the dough, flatten it slightly into the flour, pick it up, flip it over, and put the other side down on the floured surface. Lightly flour your rolling pin and roll out the dough with a light touch until it is 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters, or with a pie crust edger or ravioli cutter. You may need to lift the cut cookies with a pancake flipper. Place on well greased sheets and bake until edges are just beginning to turn brown. This will take between 8 to 15 minutes depending on how thin you roll the dough. Makes about 8 dozen 1-inch square thin cookies. 

Start with a small ball of dough. Flour surface and
rolling pin well. You'll soon get the feel for
successfully rolling the cookie dough so thin
you can see through it.

Sweet Potato Buns 

Measure the mashed sweet potato by pressing it firmly into the measuring cup. If you have a little less, or a little more, don’t fret. The recipe will work if the milk is double the amount of the potato and adjust the flour accordingly. 

1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water, about 100 degrees
1/2 cup room temperature mashed cooked sweet potato – from about ¾ pound potato
1 cup milk, at least 2%, warmed to about 100 degrees
1/2 teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups flour

Combine the yeast, sugar, and water in a medium sized bowl.  Allow to stand until the yeast begins to bubble. Add the sweet potato and warm milk.  Stir to blend. Add the salt and then flour a cup at a time, mixing with a fork or rubber spatula. When the dough gets stiff you can knead the last of the flour into it until you have a dough that is firm and not sticky.  Take a clean bowl and lightly butter the inside. Put the ball of dough into the bowl and turn it so that it picks up some of the butter and that buttered side is on top Lightly cover with a clean towel and put in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk.  Then punch dough down. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Divide the dough into 24 pieces and place them in the pans. Cover and let rise, again, until doubled. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the rolls until they are lightly browned on top, firm to the touch, and sound hollow when you tap them. About 20 minutes.

Makes 2 dozen rolls. About 2 inches in diameter.

Both recipes adapted from Eating for Strength by  M.L. Holbrook, M.D.  Sixth edition New York, Wood & Holbrook  1877

Additional sources for this chapter:
Full text of Susan B. Anthony’s pre-trial speech can be found here
Katherine Anthony, Susan B. Anthony Her Personal History and Her Era, Doubleday & Company Inc., Garden City New York, 1954
Ann D. Gordon, “The Trial of Susan B. Anthony” prepared for inclusion in the project Federal Trials and Great Debates in United States History
The story of Mrs. Stanton's voting efforts was told in a letter she wrote to her son Theodore included in Volume IV of the collected papers. 

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