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Susan B. Anthony
Susan B Anthony pummeled and arrested for attempting to vote in 1872. She was fined $100 for registering to vote.
Susan B. Anthony lived in Battenville, Washington County, when she was a child. (Luanne M. Ferris / Times Union archive)
The folowing was taken from an Albany Times Union article: "The message matters" By Steve Barnes Senior writer Published 12:00 am, Friday, March 18, 2011

Toward the end of the 19th century, the ground-breaking suffragette Susan B. Anthonywrote to several women in rural Washington County, where she had spent a decade, starting at age 6, after her family moved to a farmhouse in Battenville from Adams, Mass.

Anthony's letter, urging the women to join her movement pushing for their collective voting rights, inspired the 1891 founding of the Easton Political Equality Club, the first such organization in the county. Although the women's-suffrage movement was more than 40 years old at the time, having officially been launched at the famous 1848 convention on women's rights, held in Seneca Falls in the Finger Lakes, it would be three more decades before all American women would be granted the right to vote by the passage of the 19th Amendment, in August 1920.

In those middle years, as the local historian Teri Gay shows in "Strength Without Compromise," her book about the Easton Political Equality Club, rural women were often far ahead of their city-dwelling sisters in the fight for women's rights. Although today it is commonly and correctly understood that urban and suburban residents are more liberal than their rural counterparts, that wasn't so regarding women's suffrage.

"It's one of the many contradictions of the movement as a whole, that there tended to be earlier and more pervasive progressive activities" among country folk, says Gay, a Charlton resident who published "Strength Without Compromise" two years ago.

She says, "That's simply because the nature of those rural societies was that they tended to be more egalitarian. Men and women were in partnership in ways that didn't happen in the urban areas, and that tended to lead to more equality in other areas of life, too."

In other words, Gay says, farm women and the fathers, brothers, husbands and sons they worked alongside had a different view of the capabilities of women than did the ruling urban elite, where gender roles were more separate and absolute.

As a result, states where women were granted full suffrage before the passage of the 19th Amendment made it national law were almost exclusively pioneer states, from Kansas and Oklahoma to the West Coast. (New York and Michigan were the only other forerunners).

In upstate New York, "It really wasn't the case that women were feeling oppressed," says Gay. "They were fighting for (suffrage) because they believed they were in a democratic country and voting was their right as citizens."

Their inspiration, Anthony, was a generation older, but they shared values inculcated during formative years in rural Washington County. With its strong Quaker influence, Easton and other parts of Washington County were receptive not only to women's suffrage but also to two other major reformist movements of the 19th century, temperance and abolitionism, according to Gay.
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