Happy birthday, Susan B. Anthony
By Annie Laurie Gaylor

February 12, 2004

Feb. 15, which is Susan B. Anthony's birthday, ought to be a national holiday.

Susan B. Anthony devoted most of her life to winning suffrage for women. Long before women won this civil right, she was arrested and convicted for daring to cast a ballot in the 1872 presidential election.

In the dramatic case of the U.S. v. Susan B. Anthony, she was fined $100 for voting for Ulysses S. Grant. At the sentencing, in which the judge continually attempted to censor her, Anthony pointed out that the laws under which she was prosecuted were "all made by men, interpreted by men, administered by men, in favor of men and against women."

Anthony made an impassioned courtroom vow never to pay the $100 fine -- which, in today's terms, translates to roughly $1,300. "I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty," she said.

Convinced that all the other wrongs against women would be righted once women won political equality, Anthony was single-minded in her pursuit of women's suffrage.

Yet suffrage was far from Anthony's only interest.

She worked for several years as an abolitionist, promoted female economic independence and spoke freely on topics such as prostitution and "sex slavery." Pre-Virginia Woolf, she wrote in her diary in 1853 that a "woman must have a 'purse' of her own."

Throughout her life, Anthony continually urged women to "wake up," to "be all on fire," to "shake up" the country, to "agitate, agitate, agitate." She beseeched young women to "work to save us from any more barbaric male governments."

Anthony, a noted critic of American aggression and imperialism, would be out agitating today for justice and against war and attempts to turn back the clock on women's gains.

In Susan B. Anthony's day, it was a crime for women to vote. Today, the real crime is the number of women who fail to vote.

Forty percent of American women failed to exercise their right to vote in the last presidential election, something that would surely have disappointed Anthony and the early suffragists.

Women are still paid only 79.7 cents for every dollar paid to men, even in professions dominated by women, according to a November 2003 congressional study.

Women fill less than a quarter of state legislative seats. Only 13 percent of the U.S. Senate and 14 percent of the House of Representatives is female. The United States ranks 59th out of 181 nations in which women are elected to national legislatures.

The United States has never elected a woman president, while currently there are 17 heads of state who are women worldwide.

Anthony might be disappointed in the lack of progress for women, but she would exult in the potential power of the gender gap. "Awakened" women voters could determine the outcome of the next presidential election.

A contemporary of Anthony's once proposed the idea that Feb. 15 even be proclaimed a national "Woman's Day" holiday in Anthony's honor.

A national holiday to celebrate women's rights is long overdue. But another day off with no mail delivery is not what women need most today.

The best memorial to Anthony would be for women to finally make use of that weapon bequeathed to us by our hardworking feminist foremothers -- the right to vote.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, who lives in Madison, Wis., is director of the Feminist
Caucus of the American Humanist Association, and editor of the anthology,
"Women Without Superstition: No Gods - No Masters" (Freedom From Religion Foundation, 1997), which includes a chapter on Susan B. Anthony. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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