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Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony was an activist who fought for the right to vote for women in the United States, among other causes.  She was, by far, not the only such women who took on this task, known as the the temperance movement or women's suffrage, but she is perhaps the most famous of the Americans women's suffragists.  Ms. Anthony was born in 1820, before the American Civil War, and died in 1906, before women were granted the right to vote in America.

Many different groups lay claim to the legacy of Susan B. Anthony, from Quakers to Unitarians to agnostics and atheists.  In truth she was all these things at different times in her life.  She was born into a Quaker family.  Her entire family left the Quaker faith and joined the Unitarian Church, of which Susan became a member and through which she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an activist in the woman's temperance movement.

Ms. Anthony held many progressive views, as did many of her comrades, but Susan was very focused on the issue of women's rights, and particularly the right of women to vote, and because of this she made it a point not to speak out or act on on many other issues, which she felt were of less importance or which she felt would resolve themselves after women had achieved an equal place in society with men and shared their access to education, work, and administration.  One such topic was religion.  Susan B. Anthony did briefly talk publicly in opposition to religion, but she son learned that when she spoke of this issue her views on women's suffrage became overshadowed, and in fact in many cases were ignored because people refused to listen to a women who disavowed religion.

Despite this, Ms. Anthony classified herself as a heretic, and did not hide her opposition to Christianity and organized religion . She did, however, not let her personal views on religion get in the way of her conviction to uplift women.  She worked side by side with Christian women, and used Christian churches as meeting places when she had the opportunity. In fact she would meet and talk anywhere she was given the opportunity.

The women's movement itself was grounded fairly squarely in opposition to organized religion. As the movement grew it did take in people of all types and beliefs, something that Susan B. Anthony was not only proud of, but fought hard for.  Ms. Anthony believed that once women became educated and had control over their own lives women would shake off the "yolk of religion" in the light of reason.

Here are a few more quotes from Susan B. Anthony:

Upon learning firsthand that a former atheist, William Henry Channing, had returned to "the faith", Ms. Anthony exclaimed: " 'Do you mean to say you have returned to the belief in the immaculate conception of Jesus and in miracles...?' ...Well, I was stunned and left... It is—it must be—simply the waning intellect returning to childish teaching."

"If it is necessary, I will fight forty years more to make our platform free for the Christian to stand upon, whether she be a Catholic and counts her beads, or a Protestant of the straightest orthodox sect, just as I have fought for the rights of the "infidels" the last forty years. These are the principles I want to maintain ­ that our platform may be kept as broad as the universe, that upon it may stand the representatives of all creeds and of no creeds ­ Jew and Christian, Protestant and Catholic, Gentile and Mormon, believer and atheist."

"To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household - which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation."

"My religious superstitions gave place to rational ideas based on scientific facts and ... as I looked at everything from a new standpoint, I grew more and more happy."

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."

"To no form of religion is woman indebted for one impulse of freedom."

"The religious persecution of the ages has been done under what was claimed to be the command of God."