On June 17, 1873 in Canandaigua, New York the trial of Susan B. Anthony began. The prosecution charged that on November 5, 1872, in the first district of the Eighth Ward of Rochester, New York, Susan B. Anthony and fourteen other women voted in the United States election, which included the election for members of Congress. The women had successfully registered to vote several days earlier. A poll watcher challenged Anthony’s qualification as a voter. The inspectors of election took the steps required by state law when a challenge occurred: they asked Anthony under oath if she was a citizen, if she lived in the district, and if she had accepted bribes for her vote. Following her satisfactory answers to these questions, the inspectors placed her ballots in the boxes.
Anthony believed that the Fourteenth Amendment, which defined U.S. citizenship, protected a woman’s right to vote. She reasoned that the rights of U.S. citizenship, or, in constitutional language, “the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States,” included the right to vote. If the Fourteenth Amendment’s definition of U.S. citizenship included women, and the states were barred from depriving U.S. citizens of the privileges and immunities of citizenship, it followed that states could not exclude women from the electorate.
After three days of trial the court decided otherwise. She was found guilty and ordered to pay a fine of $100. When asked if she had anything to say she replied:
“May it please your honor I shall never pay a penny of your unjust penalty. All the stock in trade I possess is a $10,000 debt incurred by the publishing of my paper, The Revolution, whose sole object of which was to educate all women to…rebel against your man-made, unjust, unconstitutional forms of law that tax, fine, imprison and hang women, while they deny them the right of representation in government.”
Anthony was released from jail. The fine was never paid.
For more information about the trial and its results log onto: http://ecssba.rutgers.edu/docs/sbatrial.html and learn more about this courageous woman who paved the way for our political freedom today.