Advanced Search

Anthony, Susan B) Frothingham, Octavious Brooks.

Gerrit Smith: A Biography.


(Anthony, Susan B.) Frothingham, Octavious Brooks. Gerrit Smith: A Biography. New York: Putnam's, 1878.
8vo.; frontispiece engraving of Smith, original tissue guard present, foxed; red cloth, stamped in gilt; extremities covers rubbed, spine faded.
First edition of the earliest biography of Gerrit Smith, abolitionist, philanthropist, and woman's suffrage supporter. An important association copy, linking two generations of key figures in the women's rights and anti-slavery movements; inscribed by Susan B. Anthony: Mrs. Olivia B. Hall. With best love and gratitude of Susan B. Anthony. November 29, 1892 Rochester, US. With a separate presentation from Elizabeth Smith Miller neatly tipped in below: Presented to Mrs. O.B. Hall by Susan B. Anthony, with kind regards of Elizabeth Smith Miller August 1892. Miller, to whom several sections of the biography are devoted, has added emendations and marginal strokes to several pages.
Anthony first met her lifelong friend Olivia B. Hall in the 1850s. Hall and Anthony shared a fierce devotion to the feminist cause as well as a strong personal devotion that would last for more than forty years. (Hall's correspondence with Anthony, 1869 to 1905, is part of the Library of Congress collection.) 1892, the date of the inscriptions, marked a milestone for both Anthony and the campaign for female equality: that year, a newly unified feminist movement elected Anthony President of the newly formed National Woman Suffrage Association.
Anthony's choice of Frothingham's biography for Hall's gift is especially meaningful. Gerrit Smith (1797-1894), abolitionist, philanthropist and, briefly, Congressman (1853-54), was one of the most notorious radicals of his era. Smith's connections to feminism are rich and complex: he was the cousin of Elizabeth Cady Stanton; through him, she became interested in temperance and abolition, and she drew him into the causes of woman's suffrage and national dress reform. Although he supported the efforts of many downtrodden groups, Smith's life work was first and foremost anti-slavery activism. Smith, one of the primary financiers and key strategists for the abolitionist cause, invested more than $14,000 in it from 1835 onwards; he also participated in the "underground railroad" for escaped slaves and gave John Brown both shelter and money prior to the Harpers Ferry raid. (Smith, nearly prosecuted as an accessory in the plot, avoided charges by enduring a temporary yet severe spell of insanity.) The first edition of this biography of Smith is scarce; the second, 1879, edition prints a "corrected" text that denies Smith's complicity with Brown.
Smith's daughter, Elizabeth-later Elizabeth Smith Miller, as she signs herself in this volume-shared, and perhaps exceeded, her father's interest in dress reform and created a scandal when she wore modified trousers to Seneca Falls. As Smith's biographer notes: "The first to discard the trailing skirt and put on what afterwards was unfortunately called the 'Bloomer' was his own daughter" (123). (Yet another complex feminist network emerges here: the trend was of course picked up by Elizabeth's friend Amelia Bloomer, who was in turn responsible for one of the most formative alliances among suffragist leaders when she introduced Anthony to Gerrit Smith's cousin Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1850.)
Miller has marked parts of Frothingham's text for Olivia Hall's special attention. On page 124 she highlights two passages: one quotes a letter from Smith to Stanton on voting rights for women; the other records her father's 1853 comments to Anthony on the absurdity of female dress codes: "...there is but one standard of modesty and delicacy for both men and women; and so long as different standards are tolerated, both sexes will be perverse and corrupt..." Later in the book, during a discussion of the John Brown debacle, Miller follows a publisher's nervous disclaimer-"Note. In the following 15 pages several changes have been made by Elizabeth Smith Miller, daughter of Gerrit Smith"-with a sharply worded addendum: "on her own responsibility!"

© 2011-2018 Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc. All Rights Reserved.