Susan B. Anthony's Journal

Susan B. Anthony’s Journal

June 1834

As I look back into the past, I see the day I got my first job. My father had always tried to be fair with us, and even girls had equal chances with boys to win their share of earnings. I was twelve. One of our spoolers fell seriously ill (Harper 20). Hannah and I decided that we had skills and knowledge needed to replace her. It goes without saying that our idea was surprising at best. I could not even hope it would work out with us. However, even then, our dearest Father did not lose the sense of fairness and gave us a unique opportunity to realize ourselves through work. That was one of the brightest moments of my childhood. Our mother objected but had to comply with our father’s decision. We played straws to decide who would go to replace the sick spooler, and I was lucky to win the lottery. I would work faithfully, every day, from early morning until late evening, for full wages that equaled unbelievable $3 (Harper 20). Susan would get $1.5 (Harper 20). At the end, Hannah decided to purchase a small green bag which, as she believed, was the triumph of her femininity and a dream of every girl in the neighborhood (Harper 20). I myself wanted to be wise in my spending decisions. I could remember how my beloved Mother wished to have pale-blue coffee saucers and cups she had once seen in a store. I decided that there was no way to spend my earnings better than to give my beloved Mother a small present. What a feeling! I still feel the sense of pride for seeing that joy in my beloved Mother’s eyes. I still wish I could get back into the happiest moments of my childhood and enjoy the innocence of being a small girl.

July 1835

Again and again, my thoughts carry me back into the best moments of my childhood. I must say that my childhood days were not entirely bright. At times I felt that I had to struggle with myself, my community, my society, and the people around me. Yes, I am only fifteen but my heart aches as I am unable to change many things in my life. At the same time, there is some hope that my childhood experiences will help me to realize my strivings and dreams. I always knew that women in our community were treated differently from men (Boothroyd 5). However, I never seemed to feel the effects of the community prejudices on my skin until, at the age of ten, my father allowed me to attend a Quaker meeting.

My beloved Parents spent most of their time dealing with household and business tasks. They were together in everything. My beloved Mother always attended all Quaker meetings with my beloved Father. However, once the meeting was over, the men would pull up the shutter between their and the women’s side, to ensure that they could maintain an atmosphere of secrecy during their “business” meetings (Harper 25). Needless to say, women had no voice in Quaker meetings at that time. One day I received permission from my father to attend the Quaker meeting – my beloved mother was sick and stayed at home. When the business meeting began, I did not leave the room but sat quietly behind the stove until an unpleasant woman with green spectacles found me. She said I was not a member and had to leave – I said that my Father was a member and he allowed me to stay. After a brief argument I was pushed outside. Frustrated and broken, I decided to visit a neighbor but, once the gate went open, a huge dog sprang upon me (Harper 22). I screamed so loud that my family ran outside to see what had happened to me. The dog had bitten out a large piece of my new Scotch plaid cloak (Harper 22). That was the most serious injury. However, the case itself stirred the whole community and, as a result, our beloved Father filed a request to make us members of the Quaker society, which was immediately done (Harper 22).

January 1837

This is one of my first journals after a long, actually the longest, absence from home. I am seventeen now and I live and teach in the family of Deliverge for $1 per week and board (Harper 24). Everything goes well and I do not think I should expect anything to go wrong with me and my family. I regret being so far away from my beloved Parents, Brothers and Sisters but, at this moment, there is nothing I could do to change the situation. I am extremely happy to have an opportunity to send free mails to my family, because I would never afford paying eighteen cents for each and every letter (Harper 25). I am virtually dying to see my family, my beloved Parents, my dearest Brothers and Sisters whom I miss so much.

I am proud to be a member of respected Deborah Moulson’s school, which cultivates morality and virtue and gives us wonderful opportunities to become respected and virtuous women. However, I also regret that my brothers and sisters have no such opportunity. Certainly, a District school could be an excellent place to foster personal improvement in scientific disciplines, but it is hardly the best place for cultivating morality and virtue in my beloved Brothers and Sisters (Harper 24). Here, we also have science and philosophy lectures which give us a complete picture of the world. They are rather interesting and even entertaining. During science lectures, we used a microscope to watch the dust from a butterfly’s wings (Harper 26). That was an unbelievably amusing lesson. Girls were laughing but did not dare to ask our respected Male teacher too many questions. That was interesting and, I should say, rather informative. I learned a lot during that lesson. However, I cannot share the details until I meet my beloved family and we discuss everything in person (Harper 26). There is so much I could tell them but, unfortunately, I cannot spend all my time writing letters to my beloved Family. I simply want them to be happy and healthy. I cannot wait when I finally see them again.

February 1838

I am eighteen! It seems that a whole long life is behind me. I had so much and I long for so much more than I cannot even realize how important it is for me to be such a grown-up personality. I still feel that my knowledge of life is not enough to make me an eighteen-year-old person. I also feel that I am opening new frontiers and cannot escape the sense of satisfaction for being able to learn more. My life at the school is not as bright as it may seem. All letters to my family, friends, and schoolmates should be first put on the slate, so that the teacher should see them (Harper 30). A few days ago I managed to write and send a letter to my schoolmate without putting it on the teacher’s slate first. For the first time in so many years I experienced the sense of joy and satisfaction for being private in my relations with friends and schoolmates. However, I could not even imagine what a serious crime I was committing then. A few days after the letter had been sent, I was called in by respected Miss Deborah. I did not expect the notorious letter would become a matter of a serious scandal with Respected Miss Deborah. She interviewed me, telling me that there was no crime more serious than passing my letters without having them read and checked by a school teacher. Apparently, Respected Miss Deborah could not imagine how much pain and humiliation she caused to a girl as young as myself. However, even the case with the letter was not as humiliating and tragic as the one when I broke Deborah’s desk. That was the day when I, sick and cold, decided to sweep down some spiderwebs in the classroom (Harper 30). I stepped on Deborah’s desk and broke the hinges on the lid (Harper 30). Deborah was outraged. She did not even want to listen to what I was saying. I cannot explain what I felt the moment I heard Deborah humiliating me. My eyes were full of tears. Her words are still echoed in my ears. They are so terrible that I cannot imagine how a woman can be as cold and inattentive to what is happening in her classroom. May be time will heal my wounds but, at present, there is nothing that can give peace to my soul.

March 1838

Just a few weeks ago I could not imagine that my happiness would end so quickly. My beloved Parents can hardly make their ends meet. My father experiences serious financial difficulties. Our prosperous days are coming to an end and I feel that, soon, our father would have to take Guelma and me out of school (Susan B. Anthony House).

March 1838

Our father sent us a letter asking whether or not we could leave Philadelphia and go to New York, where our father would meet us and take us home (Harper 35). I cannot believe that all this is happening to us. My beloved Guelma, who is 20 years old now, feels very confused. I myself, by contrast, feel unbelievable joy at having such a great chance to leave this terrible school and finally see my beloved Father. However, we cannot go alone to New York and we have but to stay at school and wait for the moment when we will run to the gate to meet our beloved Father. We do not know much about the state of our Father’s business and what is happening to our family. We feel lost and confused at the fact that our country is in the state of a deep economic crisis. We regret at being so far away from our family and unable to support them at difficult times. However, we also see that life is getting more difficult in America. We have heard enough of the economic Panic last year, which subsequently led to a deep financial crisis (Dunnell 75). We also heard that the Panic caused the first financial crisis in the United States and was also the result of the reckless speculation and trade expansion since 1833 (Dunnell 75). However, we could not anticipate that the financial crisis would ruin our and our family’s life. Bank failures are numerous (Dunnel 75). Creditors want their money back. Possibly, we will have to give away everything we have to cope with our financial obligations. We constantly hear new information about abolitionists and their effects on the American politics. However, we are women and are not allowed to participate actively in the political life of our country.

September 1839

A year has passed since my last journal entry but so many things have changed since then. Last summer we had to give away our property to creditors and moved to Hardscrabble. What a wonderful time did we have there! In his prosperous days, our father had built a large satinet factory at Hardscrabble and, although most of it would have been mortgaged by now, we enjoyed comfortable existence in a large house of ours. We would have so much work there, all of which would be extremely pleasant. I baked bread and worked at the spinning-wheel, cooked suppers and wove years of carpet (Harper 36). Later this year, I have moved to New Rochelle to take a position of an assistant at Eunice Kenyon boarding school (Harper 36). However, the principal is very sick and absent from the school most of the time. As a result, I could not but take charge of everything and assume the full responsibility for the things happening at school. This is an important, difficult, and challenging mission. I am nineteen years old but I work as hard as an adult, experienced woman. I feel so tired that my body refuses to keep and balance me. I also feel joy and pleasure of being at the right place. I have met a few colored girls and was extremely happy to see how they associate with the white people (Harper 39). I am also busy with preparations for my sister Guelma’s wedding, which is planned for the 19th day of the same month. She is getting married to Aaron McLean, who does not seem to welcome my abolitionist moods. I wrote a small letter to Aaron, telling him that anti-abolitionist trends in New Rochelle are so much unchristian. However, Aaron warns me that I should not go too far with my long for the equality of human rights. He warns me that I should be very careful with my desire to “niggerize” everyone around myself (Harper 40). I do not think he is correct but I am not going to argue. I am more than confident that some questions do not require too much discussion as long as they reflect the most desired order of things. I know that, one day, America will finally reach the desired state of equality, in which women and men will have equal professional and individual opportunities. I also know that, one day, America will be a prosperous country with no slaves and people of diverse colors and racial backgrounds living side by side.

December 1845

I wake up at night and think of a dream I have just seen: a strong and dedicated woman talking to ten thousand of black and white people about the role and importance of equality. Was it me? I cannot say forsure. However, it is exactly one month since we have moved to Rochester on the Eerie Canal (Susan B. Anthony House). We arrived to Rochester on November 14 (Harper 45). Our beloved Father had only ten dollars in his pocket and we had to stay at the National Hotel on our first night in Rochester (Harper 45). Next day we finally arrived to our new house; our household goods were brought from the city and we began preparing our new home for comfortable living (Harper 45). Just a month after our arrival to Rochester, I feel how abolitionist freedom moods affect our lives. Our neighbors, DeGarmos, support our anti-slavery moods (Harper 45). We sometimes gather together on cold winter evenings to discuss the philosophy of human freedom, equality, and justice. We are gradually coming to realize that slavery has nothing to do with God’s vision of reality. Here and there, anti-slavery messages of Sir Frederick Douglass reach our ears – just a few years ago he was unknown to abolitionists (Lampe 290). Today, he is the brightest representative of the abolitionist movement in the United States, a person who demonstrates a remarkable ability to persuade thousands of people that slavery goes against human reason. I often feel like my life in the Quaker community stifles me. I lack self-realization. I see myself as a person who plays an important role in the life of my community. However, I am severely restricted from discussing my views openly. I am grateful to my family for giving me a breath of freedom and letting me communicate my views in a plain, simple language. I long for the spring and want to feel a pleasant breath of the spring wind on my cheeks.

May 1846

Two weeks ago I received a letter from the Canajoharie Academy, in which the Board of Trustees offered me a position in the Female Department upon the terms that were absolutely satisfactory, to say the least. I could not resist a temptation to become a professional educator and I was extremely proud to accept the school’s proposition. I wrote an answer that was sent by return mail almost immediately. Upon my arrival to the school I, for the first time in my life, found myself in an entirely new surrounding which no longer burdened me but released me from the chains of the Quaker life. I dropped the complex Quaker language and came to use plain words in my communication with other females (Harper 50). I have so much money that, at times, I do not know how to spend it wisely. I have entire liberty to use this money at my own pleasure (Harper 50). I enjoy nice clothes and develop warm relations with other females. A nice widow comes to school to show her attention and respect to me. Another one attends the school as often as to make sure that I have the fullest information about all gossips running through our community (Harper 50). I no longer feel pressured by Quaker obligations but enjoy a life of a woman. I feel pleased and satisfied with my position. I also feel that I should be extremely thorough in my workplace obligations: the first quarterly examination will become a good test to my professionalism at school. For the first time in my life, I feel empowered. I have a feeling that this position may become a triumph in my professional career. However, I cannot wait to see my beloved sisters again. I regret that, since they are married, they cannot enjoy the pleasure of being dressed in nice clothes. Teaching fascinates me. I cannot even imagine that one day I may get tired of it. Unfortunately, I also see that women continuously lack a voice in community decisions. We cannot elect the best leaders, unless we engage in a cooperative effort and abandon a miserable trouble of being unable to create and sustain common happiness for everyone.

April 1849

Three years ago I could not imagine I would be tired of teaching but today I feel that this is not what I want to be. One would say I am doing too well, but the true reason is that I am slowly getting to understand the difficulty of being a woman. Just a month ago my beloved cousin Margaret gave birth to a child and I supposed I had to stay with her to help her in her household and family obligations (Harper 52). I am a single woman in my twenties, and, from my perspective, I perceive marriage as a misbalanced phenomenon that does not give a woman sufficient freedom of thought. These misbalances are either obscured from the public eye or, which is most frequent, are taken for granted. My sister was slowly dying and I had to assume a responsibility for dealing with her household chores. I took care of her children and stay at Margaret’s bedside. I saw her suffering but not a sign of sympathy in her husband’s eyes. He did not seem to take her illness seriously, until Margaret died in pain. Now, the California fever is in its height (Harper 57). Thousands of men run westward to save their lives. For the first time in my life I feel discouraged and lost at the fact of being a woman. Whether or not the burden of household chores is the main reason of my sadness I cannot say for sure.

However, I constantly feel that I am tired of playing a role of a housemaid. My grief for the cousin is so intense that I cannot sleep at night. I can no longer stay at Canajoharie (Harper 58). I can no longer be what I used to be throughout my life. Something has changed in me. I am no longer myself. I lack stimulus and energy. I have no motivation to proceed with teaching. However, I also lack courage to make a major shift in my life. I am growing tired of everything (Harper 57). “Oh, if I were but a man so that I could go!” (Harper 57) I would have much better opportunities to change my life. I know that women possess sufficient power which can yield remarkable results, if organized properly and used wisely. My heart longs for change. The life and death of my cousin Margaret exposed so much unfairness in a woman’s life!! I do not think women can and should tolerate it any longer.

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