People: Reform Movements
In 1872, Anthony decided to test the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment by casting a vote. She argued that because the amendment protected the “privileges and immunities” of all citizens, that it should protect her right to vote. She was arrested, imprisoned, tried, and found guilty of voting. Anthony’s trial gave her a chance to bring her message to a larger audience.
In the 1880s, NWSA merged with another suffrage organization to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Stanton became its first president. In 1892, Anthony became its second president – a post she held for eight years. Anthony died in 1906, thirteen years before the Nineteenth Amendment would secure women’s right to vote. The fight for women’s suffrage was continued by others including Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt.
The work of Anthony and other women’s suffragists illustrate the civic values of perseverance, courage, initiative, industry, and civic skills including volunteering.
Douglass also exercised his right to freedom of the press, publishing his thoughts in a weekly abolitionist newspaper, The North Star. His most important work was his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. It was incredibly popular and opened many peoples’ eyes to the horrors of slavery. He spoke to President Abraham Lincoln about soldier conditions during the Civil War, and advocated passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, which banned slavery throughout the United States.
Douglass also spoke and wrote in favor of an amendment to the Constitution securing voting rights and other liberties for former slaves. This call was eventually heeded with the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment. Douglass continued to persevere in his work for equal rights for former slaves and for women until his death.
The work of Douglass and other abolitionists illustrate the civic values of perseverance, courage, initiative, industry, and civic skills including volunteering.
At that convention, the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions was read. This document, based on the Declaration of Independence and written by Stanton, declared the legal equality of men and women, and listed the legal rights women should have, including the right of suffrage (voting). Her work helped launch the women’s movement which eventually won women the right to vote. Stanton knew she was fighting for something bigger than herself. She did not live to see the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. When Elizabeth Cady Stanton died, Susan B. Anthony wrote “Mrs. Stanton was always a courageous woman, a leader of thought and new movements.”
She took initiative and found a political voice in her writings. She began to do research by interviewing former slaves and others who had personal experience with slavery. Her first novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, told of the abuse suffered by enslaved people and families in emotional, human terms. Uncle Tom’s Cabin sold 10,000 copies in its first week, and was a bestseller in its time. She reached peoples’ hearts and minds in a way that politicians had not been able to do. Historians believe the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin sped up the outbreak of the Civil War, as more and more people believed the nation had a duty to end slavery. The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in 1865, ending slavery in the US forever. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s writing truly changed a nation’s view of justice.
Thoreau opposed the United States’ war with Mexico because he believed that the war would lead to slavery’s expansion in the West. He did not want his tax money to support the war or slavery. Thoreau refused to pay the poll taxes required by Massachusetts. As a result, Thoreau was arrested in 1856. He spent the night in jail, an experience which affected him deeply. “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is in prison,” he argued. (A family member paid the tax the next day and he was released.)
He believed he had acted responsibly as a citizen by refusing to support what he believed was an unjust war. Exercising his First Amendment freedom of the press , he articulated his philosophy in an essay called Civil Disobedience. Henry David Thoreau’s words and actions have inspired generations of Americans including Martin Luther King, Jr. Thoreau was not without his critics, who argue that his ideas on civil disobedience threaten the rule of law . The way to respond to unjust laws is to work to change them, they argue, rather than to disobey them.