CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051
ROCHESTER, NY – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. is thanking President Trump for pardoning Susan B. Anthony today, on the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. Attorney Kennedy stated, “On behalf of the citizens of Western New York, I commend and thank President Trump for his decision to pardon, Susan B. Anthony, our courageous native sister who, from our little corner of this great Nation, launched the Suffrage movement and spent her adult-life fighting tirelessly for abolition, educational reforms, and women’s rights. Anthony’s efforts transformed our Constitution and, with it, our country, and the President’s pardon of her on the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment reminds us that Anthony’s quest for equality, freedom, and justice is one that continues today.”
Susan B. Anthony, 1820 – 1906, moved to upstate New York in 1826 and spent most of her life pursuing recognition of women’s rights, and particularly the right to vote. Anthony campaigned for women’s suffrage for over 50 years. Her tireless advocacy, passion, perseverance, leadership, and ultimately persuasive effect was such that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote became known as the Susan B. Anthony amendment. A fighter to the end, Anthony’s last speech, a month before her death, concluded “failure is impossible!”
Anthony was able to vote in a state or federal election only once in her life, and it resulted in her criminal conviction.
An indictment returned by a grand jury in Albany on January 24, 1873, charged Anthony with voting in Rochester (then) in the Northern District of New York, on November 5, 1872, “for a Representative in the Congress of the United States . . . without having a lawful right to vote in said election district (the said Susan B. Anthony being then and there a person of the female sex).”
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ward Hunt presided at the trial, conducted July 17-19, 1873 in U.S. Circuit Court for the Northern District of New York in Canandaigua . Three witnesses testified that: Anthony had been permitted to register to vote upon her claim that her right to do so rested not on the New York Constitution, which excluded women, but on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; when Anthony voted on November 5, 1872, her right to do so was not challenged; Anthony’s counsel had advised her, before the election, that the laws and Constitution of the United States authorized her to vote and to do so if the inspectors would receive her vote; and, Anthony had testified in a preliminary proceeding that she had no doubt of her right to vote and would have done so had she not consulted her counsel.
Justice Hunt instructed the jury that: “Assuming that Miss Anthony believed she had a right to vote, that fact constitutes no defense if in truth she had not the right. She voluntarily gave a vote which was illegal, and thus is subject to the penalty of the law. Upon this evidence I suppose there is no question for the jury and that the jury should be directed to find a verdict of guilty.”
Anthony had not been allowed to testify, but was afforded an opportunity to speak before sentence was pronounced. She said to Justice Hunt: “in your ordered verdict of guilty, you have trampled under foot 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. . . Your denial of my citizen’s right to vote, is the denial of my right of consent as one of the governed, the denial of my right of representation as one of the taxed, the denial of my right to a trial by a jury of my peers as an offender against law, therefore, the denial of my sacred rights to life, liberty, property.”
Justice Hunt sentenced Anthony to pay a $100 fine and the costs of prosecution. She responded, “I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.” Justice Hunt replied, “Madam, the Court will not order you committed until the fine is paid.” The nature of the trial and sentence meant there could be no appeal.
Eleven other women were indicted for voting illegally, but a nolle prosequi was entered for each of them. The three elections inspectors who had received the votes were convicted at trial after Anthony’s. They were fined but refused to pay and eventually were jailed and then pardoned by President Ulysses S. Grant.
In January of 1874, Anthony petitioned Congress to remit her fine, but a bill to do so did not pass.
Anthony continued to advocate for women’s suffrage for 32 more years, including serving as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association from 1892-1900. On August 18, 1920, fourteen years after Anthony’s death, her goal was achieved by the ratification of the 19th Amendment, providing that: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
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