The government decided to prosecute Susan B. Anthony aloneshe would represent all sixteen women . A trial was set for June. That gave her six months to prepare. Anthony used those six months well. She spoke in all of Rochester's districts. She talked about the Constitution and natural rights. Rights were not something that governments owned and gave out to people, she explained. They belong to each of us. People are born with rights. Governments are formed to protect those rights. That was the message of the Constitution, she said. At one point she declared: " 'We, the people' does not mean 'We, the male citizens.' It is mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty."
When the day of the trial came, the courtroom was packed . Reporters sat with their pencils sharpened. But Judge Ward Hunt , a foe of women's rights, wouldn't let Susan Anthony speak . He said as a woman she was "incompetent" to do so. Anthony's friend Henry Selden spoke for her: "Every citizen has a right to take part upon equal terms with every other citizen," he said.
But then Judge Hunt did something no judge has a right to do. He said to the jury: "Under the Fifteenth Amendment, Miss Anthony was not protected in a right to vote. Therefore I direct that you find a verdict of guilty."
Judges tell a jury about the law. But they can't tell juries how to vote. That didn't stop Judge Hunt. His clerk said to the jury, "You say you find the defendant guilty, so say you all?" No juror said a word. Then Judge Hunt said, "Gentlemen of the jury, you are dismissed." Susan B. Anthony was found to be guilty . Not a juror had spoken .
Most people were outraged. Now the issue was no longer the vote for women. It was an issue of a free trial in a free society. This trial had been a joke. The New York Sun wrote of a "jury of twelve wooden figures moved by a string pulled by the hand of a judge ." Susan B. Anthony wasn't the only one who lost out that day. So did America's women. If Anthony had won that case in 1873, women all over the nation would have been able to vote. Judge Hunt decided otherwise .