July 5th, 2008
I know Susan B. Anthony did a lot of great things, but this weekend I found myself wishing that her image didn’t grace our silver dollars. I knew that, like many white feminists of her time, she foolishly saw women’s suffrage and African American suffrage as separate and even competing issues, but I didn’t know the egregiousness of her arguments in support of that view. An 1866 newspaper quotes her as saying in a speech:
“Remember that in slavery the black woman has known nothing of the servitude of the marriage laws of the Northern States. She has lived so far in freedom [EXCUSE ME????????]. . . . But under the new dispensation, with legal marriage established among the black race as among the white race, it subjects the black woman to all the servitude and dependence which the white woman has hitherto suffered in the North.”
Oh. My. I don’t even know where to begin. Lucky black women, not being allowed to marry, often being raped by their masters or other white men, and seeing their children sold away from them. I’m not saying there weren’t big problems and injustices associated with marriage law, but let’s not even try to compare the situations, okay?
I came across the Anthony quote in Jean Fagan Yellin’s biography Harriet Jacobs: A Life. Could we have Harriet Jacobs on a silver dollar, please? Or Sojourner Truth, who advocated for both women’s suffrage and African American suffrage? (By the way, did you know that Sojourner Truth’s first language was Dutch? I think that may be the most fascinating fact I’ve learned all year.)
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