A remarkable thing has happened to Susan B. Anthony: she has been resurrected as an anti-abortion fanatic. As this argument goes: Anthony’s opposition to abortion proves that pro-choice activists have perverted feminism, by deviating from its original intent. Therefore, “real” feminists today should understand, as Anthony did, that abortion exploits women.
Anthony has become a political football in the abortion wars, even though Anthony herself took no stance on the issue. The evidence used to support Anthony’s supposed anti-abortion stance is invented, historians claim. But the claims persist, and women in the conservative Right use her as their poster child.
Their vehicle to raise money to fund Republican women’s campaigns for elective office is named “The Susan B. Anthony List.” And conservative, anti-choice women purchased Anthony’s birthplace, in North Adams, Massachusetts, to create a museum showcasing Anthony’s supposed pro-life credentials and rivaling the much-older Anthony house museum in Rochester, New York, where Anthony spent her adulthood, and which makes no such claims about Anthony’s supposed anti-abortion stands.
How do we make sense of a world where history is being used–and as some would argue, misused–to wage present-day political wars? Using the Anthony controversy, this lecture explores that question, asking about uses and abuses of the past.