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I am a law student studying the history of American law. We are now studying the women's rights movement and its effect on the American legal system. The book we have cites Stanton and Anthony's work in the anti-slavery movement. However, I remember reading some works by these two women in college in which they use racist tactics to try to gain women's suffrage. Can you please jog my memory on this topic. Am I remembering the wrong women? Specifically, I am remembering a speech one of these women gave in which she stated that it was wrong for black men to have a vote when white women were not given that right. Thanks in advance.

Thanks for your note and it's good to know that American law is at least giving a nod to the women's rights movement. I have vague recollections about what you are talking about--there were two feminist groups fighting for suffrage: Alice Paul's National Woman's Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association where Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were active leaders. Paul had previously been active in the latter, but split due to internal conflicts. I think that the conflicts had something to do with how far each group was willing to go to win this right for all women. Unfortunately, I can't remember if it was the former or the latter organization that was willing to compromise. The thinking behind the compromise (I think) was that white women would/could secure their right to vote and then be in a better place to secure this right for black women, but some people--thankfully so--weren't willing to make any distinction between all women.

I was taught in college that white women "abandoned" black women in the struggle for suffrage, I later learned from other sources that this wasn't true and was in fact surprised when I watched the play about the Delaney Sisters and learned that these two black women have voted ever since suffrage.

Also, I think that you should keep in mind that what today sounds racist may in fact not have been at that time. In a similar vein, there are comments by Susan B. Anthony that would be percieved as "anti-choice." However, given her commitment to women's equality and freedom--I would hope that given today's political context she would change her language. Good luck and I hope the above is helpful and not too confusing.


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