By Patricia R. Chadwick

Susan B. Anthony is best known for her work in the Woman Suffrage Movement that began in the mid 1800’s. Along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, her name is almost synonymous with “Women’s Rights”. For most of her adult life Susan gave herself unceasingly to the work of improving the circumstances of women in this nation. While, in Christian circles, there seems to be a stigma attached to those who have supported the Woman’s Rights Movement, it is a little known fact that it was her religious heritage that led Susan to champion the cause for women’s rights in 19th century America.

Susan Brownell Anthony was born on February 15, 1820 to Daniel and Lucy Read Anthony in Adams, Massachusetts. Daniel Anthony came from a long line of Quakers, or Society of Friends, which was their preferred name, dating back to the time the sect was introduced in America during the mid-seventeenth century. Though she was a Christian woman, her mother was not a Quaker, fearing she could not measure up to the strictness of the sect, yet she regularly attended services with her family and held many of the same beliefs. The Anthony children were all were all members of the Society of Friends and participated fully in their meetings.

Being raised as a Quaker was very significant in shaping Susan’s attitudes and outlook on life. While growing up in the Society of Friends, she was taught that each person had an “inner light”, a kind of spiritual nerve center, through which God revealed Himself. And to the Quakers, God was no respecter of persons. They believed that God created all people as equal and that there was no distinction between male, female or between races. Their belief that all people were created equal led the many Quakers to take a stand for the equality of all people.

Susan was raised with the ideal that women were equal with men and should have the same rights and opportunities. She was given a good education because of her parents’ religious conviction that young women, as well as young men, should be properly educated. The idea of giving a young lady any education beyond the bare essentials was not looked upon favorably by most people of that era. But the Quakers insisted on equal opportunities for all people, including women. In fact, her paternal grandmother and aunts all held high positions in the Society to which her family belonged. With this appraisal of women accepted as a matter of fact in her church and family circle, Susan took it for granted that it existed everywhere.

Her religious upbringing not only had an influence on Susan’s ideals, but it also affected her actions. Quakers were very service minded and believed in helping their fellowman and woman by providing for their human physical, social, and spiritual needs. It was her religious heritage that led Susan to be involved in a variety of social concerns.

As a young woman, Susan took up the causes of abolition, temperance, and the furtherance of women’s rights with equal fervor. As she worked in these areas she regretfully realized that her ideals of equality among all people that were taught to her as a child were not held by the majority of people in our nation. She came up against such prejudice against women that she came to realize the only way that plight of women would change was if women had the Vote. It was this realization that caused her to focus her energy on the Woman Suffrage Movement.

Susan B. Anthony had high ideals and a great vision. Many things shaped her into the great woman that she was, but nothing influenced her more than the religious principles taught to her as a child. It was her belief that all people were created equal before God that empowered her to become the defender of equal rights and a principal leader in the Woman Suffrage movement.