Via Wiki­media Commons

Only one statue of a woman stands on Hillsdale College’s Liberty Walk, and she’s an hon­orary American citizen making bronzy eyes at Ronald Reagan from across the quad.

It’s as if the walk forgot the influ­ential women who fought fiercely for liberty with pam­phlets, pens, peti­tions, and parades right here in the United States. But thanks to for­mi­dable American stateswomen like Susan B. Anthony, today’s women are free to work, vote, and be inde­pendent.

Because Susan defended women’s and African-American’s equal right to life, liberty, and property, she deserves to stand among the men and lone British lady on the college’s Liberty Walk.

Hillsdale teaches its stu­dents that God endowed us with inalienable rights; but women couldn’t exercise these rights until the rat­i­fi­cation of the Nine­teenth Amendment because many men in America’s history threw anti­quated Bible verses and ill-informed science against us, con­ferring our rights to our hus­bands, hushing our voices, and sub­duing our spirits.

(No, really. Preachers even quoted Deuteronomy 22:5 to outlaw pants for women: “The woman shall not wear that which per­taineth unto man; neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all that do so are an abom­i­nation unto the Lord thy God.”)

In this hostile envi­ronment, where men wouldn’t let her speak, Susan spoke anyway, advo­cating for slaves’ and women’s freedom, political rights and priv­i­leges, and equal oppor­tunity for blacks and women in edu­cation and industry.  

The statues on the Liberty Walk bear witness to prin­cipled, moral vision­aries who moti­vated the masses and changed the course of history. Susan too had strength of char­acter she forged toiling in poverty and facing humil­i­ation in her advocacy. It sus­tained her when news­papers ridiculed her and men shushed her and vaulted her to heights of public opinion decades later.  

Susan was born into the working class and knew its struggles. Orig­i­nally from Mass­a­chu­setts, her family moved to upstate New York. She worked as a school teacher, one of few respectable job for women, accepting cramped living quarters and pit­tance wages.

Once she com­mitted herself to public service, men humil­iated her repeatedly: Often nom­i­nated as a del­egate to abo­lition and tem­perance con­ven­tions, leaders scorned and turned her away. But Susan steeled herself against moments of defeat, uttering, “Failure is impos­sible.”

She worked tire­lessly, demon­strating both an impa­tience for laziness and clarity of thought as well as over­coming her weak­nesses: a ten­dency toward terse speaking. She traveled the country with Eliz­abeth Cady Stanton, fundraising and deliv­ering a hundred speeches a year, including one in Hillsdale County.

Though Susan did not hold public office, she par­tic­i­pated in pol­itics ener­get­i­cally, peti­tioning Con­gress on mul­tiple occa­sions. A fierce abo­li­tionist, she didn’t support Pres­ident Abraham Lincoln until he turned the Civil War’s cause into one of freedom for all slaves rather than merely stemming slavery’s spread. After this turning point, Susan mobi­lized thou­sands of women to petition the gov­ernment for a con­sti­tu­tional amendment abol­ishing slavery.

“There never can be true peace in this Republic,” she said, “until the civil and political equality of every subject of the Gov­ernment shall be prac­ti­cally estab­lished.”

After Con­gress ended dis­crim­i­nation based on race or slave status with the Fif­teenth Amendment, many dis­ap­pointed women used racist rhetoric to argue that women should vote because black men had that right. To her credit, Susan tried to remain friends with Fred­erick Dou­glass and kept her asso­ci­a­tions open to black women, while remaining sen­sitive to racial ten­sions in her southern con­ven­tions.

History doesn’t com­pletely exon­erate her, however. Some his­to­rians interpret her pri­or­i­ti­zation of women’s right to vote after the Fif­teenth Amendment split to have set back blacks seeking equal rights. Others denounce the deletion of black suf­fragettes in her ency­clo­pedic “History of Woman Suf­frage.”

Despite this, Susan’s legacy still unifies the American political spectrum and inspires a diverse body of women and men to involve them­selves in pol­itics. Every four years, women proudly stick their “I voted” stickers to her grave­stone, and the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, claims the advocate because her news­paper refused to run abor­ti­fa­cient ads and pub­lished numerous articles from con­tem­porary fem­i­nists who denounced the practice.

Since 1979, our gov­ernment has minted a Susan B. Anthony dollar coin. Hillsdale College should go a step further with a statue hon­oring her sac­ri­fices, inspiring char­acter, and enduring legacy.
Susan would join Pres­ident Lincoln and her long-time friend Fred­erick Dou­glass to inspire stu­dents to use their edu­cation to fight for liberty and equality. In front of Delp Hall, the ath­let­i­cally built, imposing Susan would dare stu­dents to take risks if they want to reform pol­itics, to be “any­thing or nothing in the worlds esti­mation, and pub­licly and pri­vately, in season and out, avow their sym­pathy with despised and per­se­cuted ideas and their advo­cates, and bear the con­se­quences.”