Susan Brownell Anthony 1820 – 1906 was a prominent supporter of homeopathy, forming the National Women Suffrage Association and supporting abolitionism and she spoke out forcefully on behalf of homeopathy all her life.
This was because homeopathy had a reputation for being more progressive than regular medicine on the role of women in the medical profession. Feminists in nineteenth century America saw health reform as a significant part of the Women’s Rights Movement.
Anthony was supported by her sister Mary Stafford Anthony who although overshadowed by her sister’s fame, who was a tireless suffragist activist in her own right.
Anthony was a close friend of Jenny Poinsard d’Hericourt, Clemence Lozier, Charlotte Denman Lozier, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gerrit Smith, Wendell Phillips, Frederick Douglass, Julia Ward Howe, Lucretia Mott, William Lloyd Garrison, Hamilton Wilcox, Emily Howard Jennings Stowe, Mary Baker Glover (Eddy) and Parker Pillsbury. Clara Barton who founded the America Red Cross was also part of this influential group.
Most of the 19th century feminists and suffragists were advocates of homeopathic medicine. It is therefore not surprising that Susan B. Anthony was a homeopathic patient. Her homeopathic physician was Julia Holmes Smith, MD, another activist in the social reform movement.
Further, Dr. Smith established the first kindergarten, in New Haven, Connecticut, was the first woman elected to a deanship of a coeducational medical school (the National Medical College of Chicago in 1898), the first woman to be appointed trustee at the University of Illinois, and the first woman to be placed on a political ticket in Illinois.
Susan Brownell Anthony was born February 15,1820 in Adams Massachusetts to Daniel and Lucy Anthony. Susan was the second born of eight children in a strict Quaker family. Her father, Daniel Anthony, was a stern man, a Quaker Abolitionist and a cotton manufacturer. He believed in guiding his children, not directing them. He did not allow them to experience the childish amusements of toys, games and music, which were seen as distractions from the inner light. Instead he enforced self-discipline, principled convictions, and belief in one’s own self-worth.
Susan was a precocious child and she learned to read and write at the age of three. In 1826, the Anthonys moved from Massachusetts to Battensville, N.Y. where Susan attended a district school. When the teacher refused to teach Susan long division, Susan was taken out of school and taught in a “home school” set up by her father. The school was run by a woman teacher, Mary Perkins. Perkins offered a new image of womanhood to Susan and her sisters. She was independent and educated and held a position that had traditionally been reserved to young men. Ultimately, Susan was sent to boarding school near Philadelphia.
Susan taught at a female academy, Eunice Kenyon’s Quaker boarding school, in upstate New York from 1846-49. After, she settled in her family home in Rochester, New York. It was here that she began her first public crusade on behalf of temperance.
Anthony was distressed by the gulf that formed between Elizabeth Blackwell and Clemence Lozier due to Blackwell’s prejudice against homeopaths. Anthony chose homeopathic doctors for her own personal care and strove unsuccessfully to heal the division between these two women. Anthony spoke out for Clemence Lozier‘s homeopathic hospital and inspired Lozier’s daughter Anna to become a doctor and train at her mother’s hospital.
Anthony and Sarah Dolley founded the Rochester branch of the Women’s Education and Industrial Union in 1883, which made possible the first publicly supported milk station in the country, an initiative homeopaths continue to this day.
In 1872 she was arrested after casting an ‘illegal’ vote in the presidential election. She was fined $100 but refused to pay. She delivered this speech in 1873.
“Friends and fellow citizens: I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen’s rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.
“The preamble of the Federal Constitution says: “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
“It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people – women as well as men.
“And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government – the ballot.
“For any state to make sex a qualification that must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people is to pass a bill of attainder, or an ex post facto law, and is therefore a violation of the supreme law of the land.
“By it the blessings of liberty are forever withheld from women and their female posterity. To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor.
“An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household – which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation.
“Webster, Worcester, and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office. The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not.
“Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no state has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several states is today null and void, precisely as is every one against Negroes.” (With thanks to Internet Modern History Sourcebook)
Anthony spoke at the momentous meeting of October 21, 1902 At the regular quarterly meeting of the Association held October 21, 1902 in Rochester, New York, the Nurse Practice Act came to the forefront.
The main object of the meeting was to secure a law, which would “establish a uniform and definite basis for the practice of nursing.” The American Journal of Nursing of November 1902 relates the beginnings of this meeting held in the Assembly Room of the Isabella Graham Hart Nurse’s Home at the Rochester City Hospital. Over one hundred trained nurses from Rochester and across the state attended.
In attendance were Susan B. Anthony, the honored guest speaker, Sylveen Nye, past NYSNA president, Eva Allerton, Superintendent of Rochester Homeopathic Hospital (The Genesee Hospital), Sophia Palmer past Superintendent of City Hospital (Rochester General), Rev. T. R. Hendrick representing the State Board of Regents, and Dr. William S. Ely, President of the Academy of Medicine of Rochester and a member of the State Board of Medical Examiners. State Senator William Armstrong was not in attendance but had guaranteed his support and sponsorship of the bill.
The American Journal of Nursing described the events of the meeting: Miss Susan B. Anthony was the first speaker to be introduced, and although now in exceedingly frail health, Miss Anthony’s interest in the discussions was so great that she remained in her seat on the platform through both the morning and afternoon sessions, an honor the memory of which those present will always cherish.
Miss Anthony gave an account of the evolution of the nursing profession. She explained that when she first took up the cause of women’s rights, the trained nurse was unknown. She went on to describe the struggle of the first women physicians to get their degrees. She also pointed out the influence that the woman nurse exerts in the family.
She referred to the great power of women’s organizations and emphasized the point that where the graduate nurses had the right to vote, they could obtain their desire much more easily.
She closed her address with an earnest appeal to the nurses to remember the power and the influence of their work, and to improve it.
For an early 20th-century physician, a house call might mean spending days, and even nights, at a patient’s bedside. Such was the case when Susan B. Anthony fell ill early in March 1906. Rochesterians learned that the suffragist had come home on March 2 when the Democrat and Chronicle announced:
“After a long and exciting life of work for the cause of her sex and humanity, Miss Anthony is now resting from public work.” For the next week and a half, Marcena Sherman Ricker, her physician, tended the famous patient and informed the press daily about her condition, keeping a careful balance between hope and despair.
Marcena Sherman Ricker was a unique woman for her time. As a woman and a homeopathic physician, she was not invited to join the attending staff of the prestigious Rochester City Hospital, which held religiously to the tenets of “regular” medicine. The Homeopathic Hospital (now Genesee Hospital), however, welcomed her services.
On Sunday, March 11, the long vigil turned into a deathwatch. Monday’s edition of the newspaper conveyed Marcena Sherman Ricker‘s diagnosis without its customary Victorian verbal embroidery. “Susan B. Anthony is dying,” the paper reported candidly. At 12:40 a.m. on March 13, the great suffragist died peacefully with Marcena Sherman Ricker at her bedside.
We can wonder if Marcena Sherman Ricker ever learned that she had been quoted on the front page of the New York Times. But given her selfless dedication to the unfortunate women of Rochester, it may not have mattered to her. Perhaps what might have meant more is the fact that she and her husband rest in the same neighborhood where her intimate friend, Susan B. Anthony, and so many other dedicated and active women lie, in Mount Hope Cemetery.