Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World

A Book Review by WWHP member, Kara Wilson

One of the highlights of the National Women’s Hall of Fame Induction Weekend in Seneca Falls, New York, was having the opportunity to meet Penny Colman and attending a lecture on her new book, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World. Among Penny Colman’s prior publications are two books about women with ties to Worcester: Dorothea Lynde Dix and Frances Perkins. Ms. Colman once visited the Frances Perkins Library in Worcester to lecture on her book about Perkins and so enthusiastically acknowledged the large Worcester contingent in her audience in Seneca Falls.

Ms. Colman discussed her research process while writing the book, which included assistance from Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s great-great-granddaughter, Coline Jenkins, who was in the audience at the lecture. Another part of Ms. Colman’s research involved driving 880 miles in three days to visit important landmarks in the lives of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Ms. Colman showed us a PowerPoint slideshow of pictures of these landmarks and she lists them at the end of the book, in case the reader would like to have a first-hand look at the places mentioned in the book. Ms. Colman also mentioned that she conducts tours of sites relevant to women’s history in New York City. I felt as if we were being treated to a mini-virtual tour through her PowerPoint presentation.

After receiving my own autographed copy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World following the lecture, I could not wait to begin reading. The book certainly did not disappoint. I appreciated how Penny Colman structured the book chronologically and that the first part (Chapters 1-8) had the odd-numbered chapters strictly focused on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the even chapters about Susan B. Anthony. In Chapter 9, we arrive at 1851, when the two women are introduced in Seneca Falls by Amelia Bloomer, so from that point onward, the book is centered around their friendship and collaborative work, with each chapter involving both women.

I admired how thoroughly Ms. Colman researched the lives of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in preparation for writing the book. She uses numerous quotes from letters, speeches, articles, and diary entries, so the reader gets to hear the story of these women and their friendship in their own words, making them seem to come alive. It’s hard not to get caught up in their passion and commitment to the fight for women’s rights as the reader sees Miss Anthony traveling tirelessly even into her eighties to places all over the world, bringing with her impassioned letters and speeches written by Mrs. Stanton to deliver at conventions.

There were many quotes from both women that were alternately stirring and touching, but I’d like to share one of my favorites. At the age of 78 in 1898, Susan B. Anthony was outraged at a recent U.S. Congressional decision to restrict voting rights to men in the territories won in the Spanish-American War. She also was deeply concerned that the women of the future would not pick up the fight for women’s rights once she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were gone. In a letter to Clara Berwick Colby she wrote: “I really believe I shall explode if some of you young women don’t wake up and raise your voices in protest...I wonder if when I am under the sod — or cremated and floating in the air — I shall have to stir you and others up. How can you not be on fire?”

I believe Susan B. Anthony would be proud to know that organizations such as WWHP are still thriving more than 100 years after her death. She is still stirring us up and we are on fire to continue the work our foremothers started!

For more information about Penny Colman, you can visit her website www.pennycolman.com.

Published Date: 
February 14, 2012