Our Opinion: For Adams native Susan B. Anthony's birthday, a double milestone

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In the long history of the American fight for broader equality, 2020 marks two notable anniversaries — an intertwining clarion call echoing from the nation's voting booths to the streets of Adams.

Today is the bicentennial of the birth of Susan B. Anthony, a civil rights pioneer whose advocacy and action on behalf of a stronger American democracy is felt in the very bones of the U.S. Constitution. And speaking of anniversaries and the Constitution, the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in America, has a centennial of its own this year in August.

Ms. Anthony is inseparable from the women's suffrage movement. Its progress wasn't due to any one individual and was fought for by many — Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Church Terrell and Frederick Douglass, just to name a few. For many Americans, though, when they think of women's suffrage, they think of Susan B. Anthony.

Ms. Anthony's activist awakening began as a teenage abolitionist, joining the organized resistance to the gag rule in the House of Representatives by collecting anti-slavery petitions at the age of 16. Later in life, she arranged an anti-slavery convention in Rochester, N.Y., and even aided Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad by helping facilitate the escape and freedom of fugitive slaves.

Ms. Anthony toiled tirelessly and often put life and livelihood on the line in her uncompromising pursuit of these movements' progress. This required insurmountable grit, at least partially grown in the soil of her Berkshires birthplace. In 1865, she witnessed one of these movements essentially come to fruition, with the conclusion of the Civil War bringing the 13th Amendment and the formal outlawing of slavery in America. But as we approach the centennial of the 19th Amendment, it's worth noting that Ms. Anthony didn't live to see the historic shattering of the gender barrier at the ballot box.

In this bittersweet reality is its own lesson. Ms. Anthony had the selfless foresight to labor, petition, fight and even get jailed for a monumental transformation of democracy that she would never get to take part in. That is integrity — to work for a more just world, even if you don't get to see it with your own eyes, because the pursuit of justice, however fraught, is an end in itself.

In grappling with deep multigenerational problems, from climate change to income inequality, perhaps the best birthday gift to Ms. Anthony's legacy is onboarding this lesson.

Happy birthday, Susan B. Anthony.



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