Yesterday marked the opening of the Susan B. Anthony museum in Rochester, New York—and instead of celebrating, a lot of feminists are miffed. The museum was purchased by a member of Feminists Choosing Life of New York, and pro-choice groups are accusing her of “hijacking Susan.”
Apparently, they want the famous suffragist’s views on abortion scrubbed from the historical record.
“There's absolutely nothing in anything that [Susan B. Anthony] ever said or did that would indicate she was anti-abortion,” Planned Parenthood founder Gloria Feldt.
Absolutely nothing? A quick Google search disproves that in a hurry. In her suffragist newspaper The Revolution, Anthony wrote that “no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh! thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification…drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime.”
Anthony wasn’t the only early feminist to oppose abortion. Her views were shared by women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the feminist behind the historic Seneca Falls Convention and mother of seven children. (If Stanton applied for a teaching position in a women’s studies department today, she would probably be labeled a “Jesus freak” and promptly dismissed.)
“When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit,” Stanton wrote to her friend Julia Ward Howe in 1873.
Victoria Woodhull, the first female stockbroker on Wall Street, also became the first woman to run for President in 1870. An early suffragette with a flair for the outrageous, Woodhull personified the modern feminist slogan “well-behaved women rarely make history.” (She was repeatedly arrested and jailed for her political activities.) And she, too, opposed abortion.
“A human life is a human life and equally to be held sacred whether it be a day or a century old,” Woodhull wrote. “Wives…to prevent becoming mothers…deliberately murder [children] while yet in their wombs. Can there be a more demoralized condition than this? ”