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Anthony, Susan B.

LETTER: ALS to Helen D.P. Cogswell.


On Life, Mortality, And Her Legacy
Anthony, Susan B. Autograph letter signed, "Susan B. Anthony," to "My Dear Helen" [Helen D.P. Cogswell], June 28, 1898.
Three leaves of NAWSA letterhead, text written on all sides; together with envelope to Mrs. Helen D.P. Cogswell of Concord New Hampshire addressed in Anthony's hand; leaves folded vertically and horizontally for mailing, some wear to folds, occasional careful tape repairs to leaves and envelope, not affecting text; else fine. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
In a letter written by the 78 year old Anthony just months away from formal retirement, she extends her sympathies in quite intimate terms to the daughter of a fellow abolitionist regarding her former colleagues' serious (& possibly terminal) recent diagnosis of an unspecified illness:
My Dear Helen,
Yours of Sunday the 25th came this morning- bringing the sad word of your
dear father and my old friend….I have resolved and re-resolved, over and
over, for weeks, that I would write you - and send you some of the chapters -
type-written - of my book which tell of your father's glorious work in anti-
slavery and the Revolution - for you to read aloud to him…
The text Anthony is presumably referring to above was most likely The History of Woman Suffrage. (The most recent volume of that work had been issued just two years prior to this letter.) The overall tone of the letter is quite tender and quite depressed, as befits the occasion of a loved one's terminal illness; often Anthony expresses concern for the comfort of Mrs. Cogswell's father and for Mrs. Cogswell ("I hope his sufferings are not too extreme, and that you have good help and plenty of it"; and "I hope you will not be broken down - with this serious affliction coming so close upon that of the parting with your dear mother"); but of more interest than these compassionate words are Anthony's repeated strayings towards the themes of historical legacy, mortality, and posthumous legend, concerns which are evident throughout the letter.
These themes are touched on time and time again in the correspondence: Anthony mentions the many colleagues she has lost since beginning her book ("He [Cogswell's father] should know how gratefully I remember him - before he should pass to the beyond as have so many since I began writing the book"); she pines introspectively and almost in Emily Dickinson-style tones about the fragility of life ("alas - each soul has to tread the wine-press alone - in what Mrs. Stanton calls 'The Solitude of Self'"); she is concerned that Cogswell's father's life and his illness be known about by those who worked with him ("I hope William Garrison knows of your father's illness!); and she reflects on the common work she and Mr. Cogswell partook in their younger years ("Your father…always stood true and firm with Mrs. Stanton & me in the trying years of reconstruction - when it was called "The Negro's Hour" and [when] women must not demand suffrage!!").
It is impossible to read this letter without sensing that Anthony was struggling with just these issues about herself during her discussion of Cogswell's father's legacy and the passing on of her old and dear friends. Anthony herself would live for several more vital years after this communication, eventually succumbing to her own mortality in 1906.

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