The Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony

Susan Brownell Anthony was born on 15 February 1820 to Daniel and Lucy Read Anthony in Adams, in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. Raised in a large Quaker family, Daniel Anthony (1794-1862) had attended the well-known Nine Partners Boarding School in Dutchess County, New York, and returned home to Adams to marry Lucy Read (1793-1880), a Baptist from neighboring Cheshire, in 1817. Their daughter Guelma was born one year later. After Susan's birth, Lucy Anthony bore five more children: Hannah in 1821, Daniel Read in 1824, Mary in 1827, Eliza in 1832, and Jacob Merritt in 1834. Eliza died at two years of age. Despite their mother's religion, all the children were raised in the Society of Friends, but because of it, they learned music and spent time with relatives who grew up outside the society's discipline.
Soon after Susan's birth, Daniel Anthony built a small textile mill, said to be the first in Adams. The mill was successful, and in about 1826 he was invited to move his family into Washington County, New York, where John McLean, a local politician and promoter, needed a manager for a larger mill he built at Battenville. For the next decade Anthony did very well. He put up a large brick house, hired teachers for his children, and sent his two oldest daughters to Philadelphia to Deborah Moulson's Quaker boarding school for girls. The national financial crisis of 1837 closed the mill and slowly brought the family into bankruptcy. The family moved into a neighborhood known as Hardscrabble, and for eight more years they hung on in eastern New York, supported in part by the teachers' wages of their daughters. Pulled out of boarding school in 1838, Susan set off to support herself as a teacher. Lucy's brother Joshua Read helped out the family too. Further economic troubles in 1845 led Daniel Anthony to plan a fresh start, and he settled on a farm near Rochester, New York, owned by Joshua Read. Although the family continued to farm, Daniel Anthony opened an insurance agency in Rochester and eventually could hire his sons-in-law in the business.
Not much is known about the jobs Susan held in the early 1840s. Hers was the generation of girls who entered the textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, and became a majority among the teachers of young children in New England and New York. After boarding school, she moved to New Rochelle to work at a Friends school run by Eunice Kenyon, but returned home in 1839. For the next two years she taught closer to home, where Washington County licensed her to work in its common schools. Then she lived as a teacher for two years with the family of Lansing G. Taylor, a well-to-do farmer and entrepreneur at Fort Edward, to prepare his sons for Albany Academy and his daughters for Albany Female Academy. When her family moved to Rochester in 1845, Susan joined them, but she left again five months later to head the female department at the Canajoharie Academy. Susan stayed in that job until the summer of 1849.
Although Susan B. Anthony retired from teaching at age twenty-nine, she never quite abandoned her identity as a teacher. For a decade she subjected the New York State Teachers' Association to unrelenting pressure that it accept women as equals in its own work and demand equal pay for them in their jobs. Whenever she got the chance, she spoke about education and woman's rights at county teachers' institutes, the state-funded workshops where teachers continued their own education. Teaching was the experience she brought to debates over women's work and wages throughout her life, and her attention to wage-earning women was more consistent than Stanton's.
(Anthony, Anthony Family; Dublin, Transforming Women's Work; Anthony, 1:33-43; Film, 6:198-243, 250-304, 309-365; 515-18, 545-49, 553-57.)