Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dear Sarah Palin: Did You Know Susan B. Anthony Liked to Pal Around with Socialists?

I just read a provocatively funny post at the PA Editors Blog: "Republicans forgot that Susan B. Anthony was a socialist" by Joe Wenland. He makes a point that I can agree with in spirit but not in fact. A more accurate statement is that Susan B. Anthony had an affinity for socialist ideals, and that Eugene V. Debs and other avowed socialists admired her.

So, that's right, Sarah Palin. Susan B. Anthony was known to pal around with socialists. And oh, dear! You spoke at The Susan B. Anthony List Celebration of Life, did you not? Your buddy Rush Limbaugh even praised your "mama grizzlies" folksiness.

I wonder what Susan B. Anthony, who never married and had no children, would have thought of bearing children no matter what. How would she feel about denying women the right to reproductive choice? Perhaps we can get an idea of what she may have said from her own writing about visiting the homes of poor mothers who had large families in Europe:
I went to the home of another tenant, and there again was one room, and sitting around a pile of smoking-hot potatoes on the cold, wet ground—not a board or even a flag-stone for a floor—were six ragged, dirty children. Not a knife, fork, spoon or platter was to be seen. The man was out working for a farmer, his wife said, and the evidences were that "God" was about to add a No. 7 to her flock. What a dreadful creature their God must be to keep sending hungry mouths while he withholds the bread to fill them!...
That quote comes from the biography The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, Volume 2, pg. 574. It's from a letter Anthony wrote to her friend Rachel. Furthermore, Anthony was not supportive when she learned that Rachel Foster (later Avery) had adopted a child with her sister Julia. She thought the child would be a distraction from the suffragist cause.

The biographer, Ida Husted Harper, was a journalist and close friend of Anthony.

It's no secret that Republican operatives like to flip context when launching political messages. Consider how some Republicans glibly declare "Martin Luther King, Jr., was a Republican!" as though King's life and speeches reflect conservative philosophies. So, is it any surprise they would attempt to mislead people to believe Susan B. Anthony would have been pro-life? Is it possible that they chose to ignore facts about Anthony's life, her political leanings, and criticism of the suffragette published during her lifetime?
It is a mistake to call Miss Anthony a reformer, or the movement in which she is engaged a reform; she is a revolutionist, aiming at nothing less than the breaking up of the very foundations of society, and the overthrow of every social institution organized for the protection of the sanctity of the altar, the family circle and the legitimacy of our offspring, recognizing no religion but self-worship, no God but human reason, no motive to human action but lust. Many, undoubtedly, will object that we state the case too strongly; but if they will dispassionately examine the facts and compare them with the character of the leaders and the inevitable tendency of their teachings, they must be convinced that the apparently innocent measure of woman suffrage as a remedy for woman's wrongs in over-crowded populations, is but a pretext or entering wedge by which to open Pandora's box and let loose upon society a pestilential brood to destroy all that is pure and beautiful in human nature, and all that has been achieved by organized associations in religion, morality and refinement; that the whole plan is coarse, sensual and agrarian, the worst phase of French infidelity and communism....

She did not directly and positively broach the licentious social theories which she is known to entertain, because she well knew that they would shock the sensibilities of her audience, but confined her discourse to the one subject of woman suffrage as a means to attain equality of competitive labor. This portion of her lecture we have not time to discuss. Our sole purpose 402 now is to enter our protest against the inculcation of doctrines which we believe are calculated to degrade and debauch society by demolishing the dividing lines between virtue and vice. It is true that Miss Anthony did not openly advocate "free love" and a disregard of the sanctity of the marriage relation, but she did worse—under the guise of defending women against manifest wrongs, she attempts to instil into their minds an utter disregard for all that is right and conservative in the present order of society. (From the Territorial Despatch of Seattle, edited by Beriah Brown as quoted by Harper in Volume 1 of her Anthony biography)
Harper then writes in the biography: "Apparently Mr. Brown did not approve of woman suffrage. According to his own statement Miss Anthony confined her entire discourse to the one point of competitive labor. The editorial was founded wholly upon his own depraved imagination.."

Brown was a supporter of civil rights for African-Americans, but apparently put his foot down on uppity women folk. He was also mayor of Seattle, Washington, for a year in 1878.

At risk of giving ammunition to conservatives who would lash out at the PA Editor's Blog and despite being pro-choice myself, I must poke its "... Susan B. Anthony was a socialist" post. Yeah, the Republicans should be honest and acknowledge that Anthony embraced socialist ideals and most likely would not be on the side of anti-abortion politics, and therefore, they should not have created anything in her name to honor that cause. The Susan B. Anthony List champions the pro-life cause in the cloak of women's equality.

Undoubtedly, had the conservatives behind the project done their research, they may have gone with a different name for that list, which is perhaps a knock off of Emily's list. Nevertheless, the fact is Susan B. Anthony was not technically a socialist.
The Worker, (New York) : Although Miss Anthony was not a Socialist, we Socialists cannot refrain from paying her honor, for she was a brave woman who honestly devoted her life to a great cause—only an integral part of our Socialist program, indeed, but still great even by itself. (from the appendix of The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony: including public addresses, her own papers ... by Harper, published 1908)

I'm on an accuracy in political warfare kick lately, which I expressed in my post about the tug-o-war over Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and her sexual orientation, whether or not she is gay. When scoring political points, we should honor facts and avoid giving opponents a handy stick with which to beat us.

1 comment:

msladydeborah said...


In order for Sarah to be this informed she would actually have to sit down and do some research. We both know that she is not that type of individual. I bet if you presented this information to her face to face she would not know what to do afterwards. It is not difficult for me to imagine her declaring that you were trying to taint Miss Anthony's reputation as a leader in the Women's Movement. Or you'd be labeled as a socialist for bringing the details to light.

Maybe you should forward this post to the GOP. Yes, I am serious. I love a good smack down and this definitely is in that arena. Or perhaps there is a way to send it directly to Sarah. This would let her know that she is truly shallow and too eager to mislead the public with her brand of tripe.