Hoefling: Feminism Focus

Kathleen Hoefling

On Feb. 15, women all over the United States celebrated Susan B. Anthony’s Birthday. Yet, what many failed to remember was that Susan was not only an advocate of women’s suffrage, poor and professional women’s rights, children’s rights, abolition of slavery, abolition of the death penalty and temperance (because it caused domestic violence), but even in her day, Susan was an advocate against abortion.

In the 19th century, Susan B. Anthony illegally voted, took part in the Underground Railroad and sheltered a victim of domestic violence and her children. She was a friend to men and women of all different races, religions, and political and economic backgrounds. Anthony was unmarried and did not have any children; therefore she was pestered for speaking out about women’s role in the family. Even though her personal decision was not to marry, Anthony praised marriage. What she did not support was the male-dominant culture which forced women to “sell themselves cheap” in marriage, sex and motherhood. “Social Purity,” Anthony’s speech in 1875 specifically discussed abortion, infanticide, prostitution and rape. Anthony viewed all of these as male wrongs against women. She felt that these laws, which were made and enforced by men, victimized women and absolved men from all responsibility.

Anthony did not feel that feminism was the demise of human relationships between men and women, but simply the empowering of the two. She felt that whatever a person’s parental status might be, all men and women should give life to their children, born and unborn. She campaigned for this idea by helping those in need of childcare. Anthony once remarked about this saying, “Sweeter even than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to bring about a better state of things for mothers generally so that their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them.”

So, from now on, when we celebrate Susan B. Anthony on her birthday, let us not only remember her fight for women’s suffrage, slavery and the unborn, but also follow her example for the end of women inferiority, discrimination and abortion.