Historical figures without children: Susan B. Anthony

By Victoria Fryer 

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony is one of my favorite notable women in history, and she is also a figure who never married or had children. She also made a pretty big impact on United States society.

Born in 1820 in Massachusetts, Anthony eventually became a leading figure in the women’s rights movement and for women’s suffrage. It was in 1851 that she began working towards these causes in earnest—with help from her new friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The lifelong friendship formed between Anthony and Stanton, who worked closely together throughout their lives, was instrumental in advancing their causes.

But even before that, she campaigned for an end to slavery. At just 16 years old, she was collecting petitions in support of anti-slavery campaigns, and later she participated in the Underground Railroad, helping escaped slaves find freedom.

In 1863, Anthony and Stanton formed the Women’s Loyal National League in an effort to combat slavery, and in 1868, they started a weekly newspaper called The Revolution.

Anthony was a bit of a radical figure for her time. In 1871, she was arrested for voting in Rochester, New York, and frequently traveled the country giving speeches about women’s rights and suffrage.

In her time, campaigning for women’s rights was something that garnered much criticism. She was, at various times, criticized for wanting to destroy the institution of marriage—which, of course, she did not; but that is a common criticism of “men-hating women” who want equal rights (the horror!). But things changed much during her lifetime. By the end of her life, she was gaining recognition from top U.S. politicians, including then-president William McKinley.

Anthony’s successes are notable, in part, because she accomplished so much as a single woman with no children. In the late 1800s, “spinsters” were seen as people who deviated from the norm. (In a way, they still are, though fortunately we rarely use the denigrating term “spinster” anymore.)

Anthony is widely recognized in the United States today for her efforts in support of civil rights, women’s equality, and women’s right to vote. The details, however, are largely unstudied—and if you do choose to read up on her, there are a lot more interesting things about her life that you might find out.

I don’t credit her successes to her being without a husband and children, but I do think it’s important to recognize the important things that women have done. Anthony’s life reminds me of just how much impact women can have when we put our minds to something.

Victoria Fryer is a 31-year-old writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.


Susan B. Anthony

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