Leading up to the 2020 election, President Donald J Trump hasn’t shied away from publicly discussing his concerns about voter fraud. He’s spent weeks railing against what he sees as offenses to the voting system that could potentially render the outcome of the 2020 election invalid. So it’s surprising to consider the person he issued a pardon to today; suffragette Susan B Anthony, famously arrested for violating voting laws in the late 1800’s.
Who is Susan B Anthony?
Susan B Anthony was a suffragist, abolitionist, and writer who lived in the 1800’s. Born on February 15th, 1920, in Adams, MA, Anthony was the second oldest of eight children and was raised in the Quaker fashion. Well-educated and raised with a strong moral compass, Anthony found work as a teacher in New York in the 1830’s, and in the 1840’s, her family moved to a farm in Rochester, New York.
Around this time, the Anthony family became actively involved in the abolitionist movement, which aimed to abolish slavery in the United States. Famed abolitionists like Frederick Douglass visited her family farm, and Anthony began working as head of the girl’s department of Canajoharie Academy, a job which she loved. She left her position there in 1849, and began her involvement with the temperance movement. The temperance movement aimed at limiting or stopping the production and sale of alcohol.
Anthony realizes women aren’t given a seat at the table
It was during her activism with the temperance movement that Anthony realized that women were not being given a chance to involve themselves in political and civil affairs. After the young activist was turned away from a chance to speak at a temperance convention because she was a woman, ideas began to form.
Two years later, Anthony attended an anti-slavery conference where she met future fellow suffragette, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Together, they established the New York State Woman’s Rights Committee. Anthony and Stanton began drafting petitions asking for women to be granted the right to own property and vote.
Working as an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society, much of Anthony’s woman-centered activism was put on hold by the advent of the American Civil war in 1861. After the war ended in 1865, Anthony and Stanton turned their attention back to women’s rights. Together they founded the American Equal Rights Association in 1866. The pair called for all persons to have the right to vote regardless of race or sex. In 1869, together Anthony and Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association.
Anthony takes a stand, illegally
In 1872, Anthony felt she was tired of waiting for her rights to be granted and decided to do something about it. She went down to her local polling place and cast a vote illegally. She was arrested and fined $100, a large sum of money at the time, a fine which she never paid. Anthony’s charges were never cleared and she died in 1906, still carrying a guilty charge for illegal voting.
14 years after her death, the 19th Amendment was passed which granted women the right to vote. It should be noted that, after Anthony’s death, the suffragette movement spent less time on, “voting rights for all regardless of race or sex,” and more on, “voting rights for white women.” Black women suffragettes were often elbowed out of the conversation, and were not included in the 19th Amendment’s allowance for women voters. Some white suffragettes felt that the only way to get the right to vote was by not fighting for something they saw as unattainable.
An odd choice for Trump
Because Anthony was arrested for voting illegally, it’s no small irony that leads President Trump to issue a pardon to her today, on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Trump has struggled in recent weeks to rouse enthusiasm for his concerns about voting fraud, as studies have shown voting fraud to be an almost negligible concern.
Of his pardon for Anthony, Trump had been making signals for a week. He told reporters that he was planning a, “very high-profile,” pardon, which led to speculation that he meant Edward Snowden or his former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
The fact that the ant-voting-fraud President has issued a pardon to a person who voted illegaly has some scratching their heads, but Trump is not in the habit of explaining himself. Those wondering at the cognitive dissonance will probably be left bereft of resolution. Trump has had a problem with inspiring women voters over the past four years, so it’s possible that this is a hand across the aisle in an attempt to appeal to that voting bloc.
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