As the country turned its eyes to Philadelphia this week, the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed, the home of the Liberty Bell, the iconic symbol of American Independence, and the site of the Democratic National Convention history was made again when a woman was, for the first time, the official presidential nominee of a major political party.
Earlier this month I visited the home of social reformer Susan B. Anthony, now a national historic landmark in Rochester, New York, and the place where she was arrested in her living room in 1872 for daring, as a woman, to exercise the right to vote. A right, at the time, that was not afforded to women. For her crime, she was tried and convicted in a nationally publicized trial. In the end, she refused to pay the fine, which was eventually forgiven by the government.
As a leader in the women’s suffrage, women’s rights and abolitionist movements, Anthony and her fellow reformer Elizabeth Cady Stanton arranged for Congress to be presented with an amendment giving women the right to vote in 1878. Popularly known as the Anthony Amendment and introduced by California Senator Aaron Sargent, it eventually became the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920.
It’s fitting that I will end this week near Seneca Falls, New York, considered the epicenter of the suffrage movement here in the United States. The Seneca Falls Convention, held almost 170 years ago, was the first women’s rights convention, and included discussions of the social, civil, and religious condition and the rights of women, including women’s right to vote. Many of the women, including organizer Lucretia Mott, urged the women to remove the concept from what they called the Declaration of Sentiments. However, my friend Kenneth Morris, reminded me that his great-great-great grandfather Frederick Douglass, the sole African-American attendee who understood the importance of the franchise, argued eloquently and successfully to include the suffrage resolution in the platform.
When I last visited the Susan B. Anthony historic site I picked-up a placard that I placed prominently on my writing desk “Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History.” Susan B. Anthony’s spirit and commitment to social equality reminds me that although we have nominated a woman to the country’s highest office, we still have work to do today for full equality – in pay, reproductive rights, political empowerment, and business leadership. We still need revolutionary action to finally reach gender parity and equality, and well-behaved women need not apply.