Women of History: Susan B. Anthony

January 13, 2015

Susan B. Anthony c. 1900-1906, in a photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnson (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.).

Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.
—Susan B. Anthony

The sovereign freedom of each individual. A woman’s right to own property. Temperance.

Like Mary Baker Eddy, Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) honored these causes, although the two contemporaries went about addressing them in different ways. For Eddy they were expressions of a universal truth and gained momentum through the study and practice of Christian Science. Anthony, on the other hand, focused more on activism and grassroots engagement.

Anthony was born into a large Quaker family and embraced social causes early in life. Her family’s farm near Rochester, NY, became a center for the abolitionist movement. As she developed in her commitment to the rights of women and black people, she joined with others who supported these causes, most notably Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 – 1902). Together they championed the goal of universal women’s suffrage and gained successes at the state level, although neither saw the vote extended to all American women in her own lifetime.

Anthony expressed an interest in Christian Science in the late 1880s, and wrote to Eddy in January 1887 about the first three volumes of her History of Woman Suffrage. The next month she took Primary class instruction in Christian Science healing with Eddy’s student Laura Lathrop. The following year she was in the audience when Eddy spoke at the Chicago Music Hall in 1888—an event to which she would refer in a 1903 letter to Eddy, when sending an inscribed copy of her book’s fourth volume.

While there is no record of Susan B. Anthony becoming a practicing Christian Scientist, she respected Mary Baker Eddy and her teachings. “What of Mrs. Eddy?” she asked in 1899. “No man ever obtained so large a following in so short a time. Her churches are among the largest and most elegant in Boston, Chicago, and other cities.”1 We also know that Anthony cared enough to give a copy of Eddy’s book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures to her close companion Emily Gross. She inscribed it “with dearest love.”

Click here to read our research on Susan B. Anthony’s copy of Science and Health.

Listen to “Women’s rights—and a woman’s right to interpret the Bible,“a Seekers and Scholars podcast episode featuring Dr. Sherry Darling and Dr. Barry Huff.

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  1. Susan B. Anthony, “The Work of Mrs. Eddy,” Christian Science Sentinel, December 14, 1899, http://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/a7xxv5h7cu?s=t.