Are You A Citizen if You Can't Vote?
In 1876 half of all Americans are unable to vote. They are denied the rights of citizenship. In 1869, a Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution was passed. It said: "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." But the amendment didn't say anything about women. Are women citizens? The politician and journalist Horace Greeley says this: "The best women I know do not want to vote."
Greeley said that to Susan B. Anthony , a tall, rawboned Quaker who spent much of her life trying to get the vote for women. Best women, indeed! Foolish women, thought Susan Anthony. She went to see President Ulysses S. Grant. Grant was running for reelection . Might not women vote for him if they had the opportunity? Maybe, Grant said, but he didn't want to chance it.
No one knew what would happen if women could vote. Some said that women's suffrage would be the end of the family . A husband might vote Republican and a wife Democratic. Could a marriage survive that kind of thing? It sounded ominous. But not to Susan B. Anthony. She believed, as the colonists had in 1775, that there should be "no taxation without representation." If women could be taxed, they should be able to vote. If women could be arrested, they should be able to serve on a jury.
Anthony thought about the Fifteenth Amendment. It said that all citizens could vote. Anthony visited a friend, lawyer Henry Selden. Was she a citizen? Could she vote? Selden thought the answer was yes. So, on November 1, 1872, Anthony and fifteen other women marched to a barbershop in Rochester, New York's Eighth Ward, where they found some registrars. The women said they wanted to vote. The men agreed to register them. On voting day, November 5, the sixteen women were at the polls at 7 a.m. Twenty-three days later, a deputy marshal knocked on Anthony's door with a warrant for her arrest. She was asked if she had "gone into this matter for the purpose of testing the question." She replied, "Yes, sir. I had resolved for three years to vote."