The Schlesinger Library digitization program is in full production mode, and archivists have been busy preparing collections for scanning and providing access to the digitized images and audio files through our finding aids. The most recent addition to our growing set of digital materials is the papers of notable civil rights activist and suffragist Susan B. Anthony. Larger collections of Anthony papers exist elsewhere, particularly at the Library of Congress, and many have been published through the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Papers Project. The Schlesinger Library’s holdings, though small in size, offer meaningful insight into Anthony’s public and private lives.
The library has digitized several small collections of Susan B. Anthony papers consisting of correspondence, diaries, and speeches, as well as photographs, inscriptions in books, and memorabilia related to the American icon. The finding aids for these collections, and links to the digitized items, can be found in OASIS, Harvard’s Online Archival Search Information System.
Below are a few highlights from the Susan B. Anthony collection:
Anthony chronicles her growing convictions about women’s need for equality in this 1853 diary. Raised as a Quaker in a family of activists, she joined the temperance movement and in October 1853, Anthony traveled through New York state, holding meetings and speaking about temperance. She encountered many women who lacked the time and money to make their voices heard. “Thus as I pressed from town to town was I made to feel the great evil of woman’s entire dependency upon Man, for the necessary means to aid on any and every reform movement. Though I had long admitted the wrong, I never until this time, so fully took in the grand idea of pecuniary and personal independence.”
In a 1905 letter to Frank Garrison, son of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and member of the New England Woman Suffrage Association, Anthony looks back on the suffrage movement. “It seems impossible that it is fifty years since Lucy Stone married, and her work to the day of her death was unabating,” she writes. Later in the same letter, she writes of the new generation of suffragists, specifically Carrie Chapman Catt: “Those who are carrying on the suffrage movement today are mainly young people. I do not know them personally, as a rule. Mrs. Catt, I see, is to be with you. She is a power and unites the young women of today with the older ones.”
By the turn of the 20th century, Anthony had become an American icon. In 1900 the Anthony Portrait Committee of Washington, DC, published the “Anthony Home Calendar” as a fundraiser for women’s suffrage. It was created “with the hope that it may make for itself a place in the Homes, as Miss Anthony has made for herself in the Hearts, of the women of this Nation.” The calendar contained quotes from Anthony, photographs of her home, and portraits, including one of her seated at her writing desk.
The Susan B. Anthony Papers join a growing catalog of digital materials available at Schlesinger Library. The papers of intellectual and women’s rights advocate Charlotte Perkins Gilman were digitized in 2010, and the papers of the Beecher-Stowe and Blackwell families are in progress. Freely available online to the public, these collections offer scholars, students of all ages, and history enthusiasts a window into 19th century America.