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Anthony, Susan B.

Status of Women…


Anthony, Susan B. The Status of Women, Past, Present, and Future. Boston: The Arena Publishing Company, May, 1897.
8vo.; two leaves, folded and stapled to make eight pages of printed text; two small tears on bottom of first leaf; stapled. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
First edition of this offprint of Anthony's essay on the status of women, issued for her private use and never offered for sale. It was originally published in The Arena, May, 1897, pages 901-908. At the top of the first leaf, Anthony has signed her name and added beneath it the dates: 1820 - Feb. 15 - 1898. February 15 is Anthony's birthday; perhaps The Arena printed this in honor of that day.
The Arena was published in Boston from December 1889 until August 1909, and had a circulation of about 25,000. It was founded by B.O. Flower, who edited the periodical until 1897, and then by his successor, John Clark Ridpath. Flower got the capital to start the magazine from his brother, Richard Flower, who was a wealthy quack doctor. Flower used the Arena as "a field of combat where the intellectual gains could defend those principles which appeared to them to be founded on truth, justice and wisdom" and also as a forum to voice his support of women's rights ("The Mind of B.O. Flower," by Allen J. Matusow. The New England Quarterly. Vol. 34, No. 4, Dec. 1961, pp. 492-493). He is quoted, "the constantly broadening sphere of women's influence is to me the most hopeful and important sign of our time" (Matusow, p. 495). Anthony's essay would have been a perfect fit with Flower's vision.
Flower commissioned this overview of the progress women have made toward gender equality in the past fifty years, in areas like education, legal status, professional work and wages, in the Church and in politics, with considerable discussion of suffrage. Anthony explains that before this "first wave" of feminism, women - especially unmarried women - were looked upon as "the drudge[s] and burden bearer[s] of the family," (902), adding, "Women might work like galley slaves for their own relatives" (902). In regards to women writers, and women who pursue work outside of the domestic service realm, Anthony writes, "no man would be brave enough to take for a wife a creature who had thus unsexed herself" (902); she concludes this paragraph by explaining, "Of all the old prejudices that cling to the hem of the woman's garments and persistently impede her progress, none holds faster than this" (903).
A turning point in the pursuit of equality for women was the Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, in 1848. She writes here that while the Convention was "ridiculed by the press and denounced by the pulpit from one end of the country to the other" (904), nearly all of the reforms initiated there had been realized. Curiously, Anthony also cites improvement in "household methods," and praises the fact that "Women's increased intelligence manifests itself in this department as conspicuously as in any other" (905). Even this pioneer of women's rights still cannot completely conceive of a woman removed from her domestic environment.
Suffrage, according to Anthony, is blocked by the greatest obstacle faced by women at the close of the nineteenth century. She extols the founding of NAWSA and its headquarters in New York, as well as individual state organizations, for working toward women's suffrage. She argues persuasively, "Were they the political peers of men they could command instead of having to beg, petition, and pray. Can it be possible it is for this reason that men have been so determined in their opposition to grant women political power?" (905). Anthony mentions how more and more states are enfranchising their women, and complementary to that, more and more women are becoming involved in political matters.  She explains that upon obtaining these positions, women have the expectation to surpass men in them, to "prove their claims" (907). In closing, she praises women's "magnificent abilities" and looks forward to the day when the nation can offer women "exact justice" (908).

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