Susan B. Anthony Charged with Voting Illegally


One hundred years ago, women won the right to vote.

A major event in American democracy was the trial of Susan B. Anthony in 1872. Frustrated by passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870, allowing former male slaves the right to vote but explicitly leaving women out, she registered and voted in Rochester, New York. She was arrested and tried for knowingly, wrongfully, and unlawfully voting. The openly biased judge would not allow her to speak. He declared, “She is not competent as a witness in her own behalf,” and instructed the jury to find her guilty. The Albany Law Journal opined, “If Susan B. Anthony doesn’t like our laws, she should emigrate.”

She was fined a hundred dollars, and told the court, “I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.” She vowed to continue to urge women to vote, reminding the judge, “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.” Years later, a trial assistant wrote, “There never before was a trial in the country of one-half the importance as this. If Miss Anthony had won on the merits, it would have revolutionized the suffrage of the country and enfranchised every woman in the United States.” Instead, women would have to wait another forty-seven years. 

This message is produced by the Kanawha Valley chapter of the National Organization for Women with support from the West Virginia Humanities Council.