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Anthony, Susan B.

LETTER: ALS, "Susan B. Anthony," to Mrs. [Jane H.] Spofford, July 15, 1892, two leaves of NAWSA letterhead, all sides covered; creased for mailing.


Anthony, Susan B. Autograph letter signed, "Susan B. Anthony," to Mrs. [Jane H.] Spofford, July 15, 1892.
Two leaves of NAWSA letterhead, all sides covered; creased for mailing. In a cloth slipcase.    
Autograph letter signed to the NAWSA treasurer, Jane Spofford, Anthony's longtime friend and colleague. With her husband Charles, Jane Spofford owned Washington DC's Riggs House at 15th and G which for some dozen years had served as Miss Anthony's winter residence and as the unofficial headquarters for the suffragists during their annual January convention in Washington, DC.
The letter and letterhead point to several significant changes that occurred in the 1890s in the campaign for women's suffrage. Foremost was the merger of the National Woman Suffrage Association with its rival the American Woman Suffrage Association. In January 1892, Anthony formally became president of the NAWSA and shared a platform with Lucy Stone for the first time. Wisely the newly-merged group voted Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone honorary presidents as cited by letterhead.
Second, the letterhead reflects the slow shift that was taking place from the older generation of suffrage leaders to the newer, with Anna Howard Shaw, Rachel Foster Avery and Carrie Chapman Catt coming to the fore. The older generation had been reared and raised in the states that hugged the Atlantic coast; the newer generation had been reared in the plains of Iowa, Kansas, Indiana; the forest wilds of Michigan; and the mountains of Colorado. Like the rest of the United States whose culture, economics, politics, etc. was steadily being reshaped by the frontier, so was the suffrage movement. In 1887 women gained the right to vote in municipal elections in Kansas-a monumental first. In 1890 Wyoming entered the Union with statewide suffrage for women, suffrage it proved unwilling to revoke though the territory had been pressured to abandon this radical notion to gain statehood. Throughout the 1890s, Anthony joined with suffrage leaders throughout the Midwest and West for campaigns in Indiana, Colorado, California, South Dakota, and elsewhere.
In the spring of 1892, at the age of seventy-two, Miss Anthony headed west to make women's voices heard as politicians convened for their parties' national conventions. First to the Republican Convention in Minneapolis on June 4th; on to Chicago for the Democratic National Convention on June 21st; from Chicago to Kansas for the Kansas State Republican Convention and the first convention by the new (and short-lived) "People's Party." The politicians evinced polite respect shading into discreet boredom. Ida Harper caustically reported in Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, the Democratic platform "was as densely silent on the question of woman suffrage as it had been during its whole history." Mrs. Laura Johns, the capable head of the Kansas State Suffrage Association and the Republican Women's Association, had solicited Anthony for months to attend the state convention. There suffrage forces won an initial victory with the convention approving a plank for a referendum on women's suffrage 450 to 267.
In her letter, Anthony telescopes an exhausting two-month political foray into two sentences with a decided emphasis on the sole clear gain for her efforts: "attended the Republican-Kansas State Con.-the latter put a suffrage plank in their platform so I tell Mrs. Johns she has nothing to do-but to marshal her forces & help the G.O.P. to toll up its old fashion majority!" (In fact, when Kansas Republicans lost the 1892 state elections in November, they promptly dropped support for women's suffrage. Kansas Republican women continued to support the party despite its disavowal-a hard political lesson for the suffrage movement.)
Anthony then touches on what was a trial for the movement throughout its history: money. By this time, Anthony had won sufficient personal friends and admirers to assure her of comfortable quarters wherever she traveled; these personal gestures, however, did not translate into monies for the organization itself, which, as Flexner described it, struggled with "deplorable hand-to-mouth finances. This letter documents the kind of small donation which too often represented all they could hope for and, in the end, had to be acknowledged as better than nothing: "And herein find the enclosed-from Mrs. L.L. Blankenburg of Phila.-Mrs. Bartel you will remember sent me but $5.-and I felt about its smallness as you did when Mrs. Briggs thumbed through her big roll of bills that day--& pulled out a V and handed it to you!!-But then we must be thankful for small favors-even-in this world…"
However, it is the private concerns of friends and colleagues that consume the rest of her letter. She tells Spofford of the sudden death of a colleague's daughter, of another who needs her "skill and power," etc., etc., and then proceeds to make a joke or two on Charles Spofford's evident love of angling ("I am wondering if Mr. Spofford is in the Lake George Hotel…and that he is now like a fish in his native element-not like a fish out of water…") to exclaim finally: "I would love to talk over the whole of our little world-but can't on paper…" Her clear affection for her lieutenants and co-workers, her enfolding the into an extended family, part of her "little world" very much were part displays Anthony's varied facets as President of NAWSA, brisk campaigner, money-raiser, fund of details on all those who come within her compass, compassionate leader, sympathetic and good-natured companion who will joke and tease to amuse. Written in the first year of her presidency, this letter shows Miss Anthony very much in command.  

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