Happy B-Day to Susan B.: Wear Red And Take Action As Women Leaders
“The day may be approaching when the whole world will recognize woman as the equal of man,” said Susan B. Anthony, who was born February 15, 1820 and is best remembered as the suffragist who helped women earn the right to vote.
Take The Lead is continuing that mission of gender parity by 2025, 105 years after Anthony’s birth, hoping that by then women will have equal representation in leadership positions in all sectors. In honor of her birthday, we ask ourselves, if she was around today, what would Susan B. do?
“I do not demand equal pay for any women save those who do equal work in value. Scorn to be coddled by your employers; make them understand that you are in their service as workers, not as women,” Anthony said.
Famous for wearing a bright red shawl in her speeches and public meetings, Anthony was an outspoken woman leader and early feminist whose life is commemorated on Susan B. Anthony Day, a legal observance in California, Florida, New York and Wisconsin.
At Take The Lead, we believe Anthony would embrace and embody the 9 Leadership Power Tools, created and developed by Take The Lead president and co-founder Gloria Feldt. As women leaders, wearing red relates to Power Tool #6: Wear the Shirt of Your Convictions. How that translates is to define your core values and your vision. Then decide how you can you make it happen and stand in your power and realize your intentions.
To demonstrate Anthony’s relevance today and honor her story, on election day in November, thousands lined up at her Rochester, New York gravesite to post “I Voted Stickers” on her grave, according to CNN. That relates to Power Tool # 1: Know your History. By doing so, you can create the future of your choice.
A public school teacher in New York state, Anthony did not marry and had no children, and her beliefs were reportedly pro-family, pro-life and in favor of gender equality and equal pay. She left a “legacy of building community and changing the world,” said Deborah Hughes, president and CEO of the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House, according to WHAM TV.
The University of Rochester honors eight female undergraduates as women leaders each year at Susan B. Anthony Legacy Awards. One of the winners is Seyvion Scott, “an African and African-American studies major from Rochester, who is the leader of the Frederick Douglass Leadership House’s Ella Baker Project Engagement: Promoting Community Engagement. She’s been involved in maintaining a local children’s garden and with “Rock the Vote Rochester,” a project to register citizens to vote in the November elections. She’s also the webmaster for the Black Students Union,” according to the university site.
According to History.com, Anthony “was a pioneer crusader for the woman suffrage movement in the United States and president (1892-1900) of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Her work helped pave the way for the Nineteenth Amendment (1920) to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote.”
She was an agitator at a time when women could not vote or own property. Anthony lived Power Tool # 4: Embrace Controversy. Controversy gives you a platform. Nudges you to clarity. It’s your teacher, your source of strength, your friend, especially if you are trying to make a change.
According to History.com, “Along with activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. Around this time, the two created and produced The Revolution, a weekly publication that lobbied for women’s rights. Later the pair edited three volumes of History of Woman Suffrage together.”
As writers and publishers, Anthony and Stanton used Power Tool #8: Employ Every Medium. What that means for women leaders is to use personal, social, and traditional media every step of the way. Use the medium of your own voice. And think of each of the power tools as a medium to be pressed into the service of your “Power-To”.
To salute Anthony, the Susan B. Anthony $1 coin was created in 1979 by the Us. Department of The Treasury, the first woman ever to be on any currency in this country. The coin, however, never grew in popularity.
“Anthony was tireless in her efforts, giving speeches around the country to convince others to support a woman’s right to vote. She even took matters into her own hands in 1872 when she voted in the presidential election illegally. Anthony was arrested and tried unsuccessfully to fight the charges. She ended up being fined $100 – a fine she never paid,” according to History.com.
Anthony went forward to vote and used Power Tool #5: Carpe the Chaos. Change creates chaos. Today’s changing gender roles and economic turbulence may feel chaotic and confusing. But chaos also means boundaries become more fluid. That’s when people are open to new ways of thinking, to innovation, and to new roles for women. Carpe the chaos, for in chaos is opportunity.
When Anthony died on March 13, 1906, women still did not have the right to vote. It wasn’t until 1920, 14 years after her death, that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving all adult women the right to vote, was passed
On the day of his death, on February 20, 1895, Frederick Douglass was on stage with Anthony at a public suffrage meeting. She was building alliances and gathering strength for the movement, using Power Tool #7: Take Action; Create a Movement. Things don’t just happen. People make them happen in a systematic way. And you can change systems. Apply the three movement building principles of Sister Courage (be a sister, act with courage, put them together to create a PLAN) and you will realize your vision at work, at home, or in public life.
By telling Anthony’s story, wearing red to show solidarity and reverence for her mission, we as women leaders recognize the necessity of Power Tool #9: Tell Your Story. Your story is your truth. Your truth is your power. Telling your story authentically helps you lead (not follow) your dreams and have an unlimited life.
“The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world,” Anthony said. “I am like a snowball– the further I am rolled, the more I gain.”
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com