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Anthony, Susan B.

LETTER: ALS to Mrs. Stephen Northway.


"To Labor And To Wait"
Anthony, Susan B. Autograph letter signed, "Susan B. Anthony," to Mrs. [Stephen] Northway, May 20, 1898.
Two leaves of NAWSA letterhead, recto of first, verso of second.
Anthony, age 78, was 18 months away from formal retirement when she wrote this letter to the sympathetic wife of Ohio Republican Congressman Stephen Northway, summing up the latest progress of the Suffrage movement-a House Hearing on School-Municipal and Full Suffrage-as well as its latest political roadblock: the Spanish-American War.
Anthony devotes the first paragraph to the addresses delivered before the recent House Hearing. She thanks Northway for having forwarded to her several copies, but laments that few people will read them, and is further distressed that past addresses have not been preserved:
We ought to have purchased 20,000 copies-had them put into package government envelopes as those are franked, and sent out to every State President to be scattered broadest. We fail of the end of our hearings-when we do not thus have them sent over the country to all constituents under their Congressmen or Senator's franks!! So far as I have heard, the Senate Committee has not printed the speeches made before it. I am very sorry for they were the best statements of the philosophy of Woman Suffrage….
By 1898 nearly half the State Legislatures had given women a limited vote in local school elections, respecting their maternal prerogative. In a handful of states, women could also vote and run for office in all city and state elections-the hopeful "results" to which she refers here. Securing these laborious victories, state by state, year by year, was the frustrating and tedious strategy Anthony had reluctantly accepted as prerequisite to the ultimate prize.
In the second paragraph she reveals her chagrin that the Spanish-American War has captured the attention of American manhood, turning their heads away from the woman's revolution:
I hope the War will be over-and that next winter the committees of both Houses will report and secure a discussion of both on our demand for a National Constitutional Amendment that shall protect women in the exercise of their right to vote in every State in the Union.… Oh that we were Cubans begging-so that our Men would hear and heed our cry!! Well, the good form for us women is "to Labor and to Wait"-and there is doubtless plenty of both virtues in store for us.
In the months immediately preceding this letter, the effects of imperial greed, the sinking of the US Battleship Maine in Havana Harbor, and the astonishing influence of Hearst's Yellow Press had led to the unfolding of the Spanish-American War. Anthony's traditional supporters abandoned her cause in favor of sympathy for the "poor" Cubans, a slight she would never forgive, remarking in 1900: "If the women of our nation had been counted among the Constituencies of every State Legislature and of the Congress of the United States, the butchery of the Spanish-American War would never have been perpetrated."
This letter is a superb example of the single-minded devotion that has made Anthony's name historically synonymous with the Rights of Women. For woman suffrage, 1898 was a critical midpoint between the success of the past and the long struggle ahead. Anthony sensed victory remained elusive. Indeed, when she died in 1906, the passage of the 19th Amendment stood a full 14 years into the future.

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