On the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, President Trump managed to make the day about himself by announcing he will pardon Susan B. Anthony. Are we surprised?
Anthony, a life-long activist primarily known for her work in the women’s suffrage movement, was arrested and convicted after voting in the 1872 presidential election.
Trump’s decision to pardon her is problematic for multiple reasons. First, Anthony intentionally voted because she knew her arrest would bring national attention to the women’s suffrage movement. That’s civil disobedience 101—not that Trump cares to learn any history. By pardoning her, Trump shows his lack of understanding for the significance behind Anthony’s arrest.
Second, Trump’s faux celebration of Susan B. Anthony whitewashes the history of the women’s suffrage movement. Anthony co-founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), which infamously opposed the 15th amendment enfranchising Black men with the right to vote, unless women were also included. After the NWSA merged with another organization to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1890, the new organization allowed local chapters to bar Black women from joining.
Additionally, Anthony leaned into the image of the women’s suffrage movement as a white women’s movement, relying on white supremacist ideals to attract supporters despite the fact that countless Black women activists—including Maria W. Stewart, Henrietta Purvis, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Harriet Forten Purvis, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Frances E.W. Harper, Mary Church Terrell, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Sarah Parker Remond—were essential leaders in the push for equal voting rights.
The history of women’s suffrage is complicated, to say the least. Universal suffrage was not achieved until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and voting rights remain precarious still today. Trump’s pardoning stunt is obviously a shallow attempt to pander to the “Suburban Housewives of America,” as he likes to call his white women supporters.
See how feminists on Twitter reacted to the outlandish news: