Susan B. Anthony is one of America’s most well-known women and one of its most poorly understood. The reasons are many, but they began with Anthony herself. Anthony very carefully crafted the written record about herself: authoring multi-volume history of the movement and commissioning her official multi-volume (auto)biography. Then, at the end of her life, she burned large portions of the massive archive housed in her attic. This was clearly an effort to control her image & legacy. Following her death, suffragists fought with one another and held up Anthony as a weapon in those battles, creating yet another layer of misinformation around Anthony. This has continued to this day.
Despite her fame, we have no present-day historical biographies of Anthony, in part because she has proven so difficult to recover, being shrouded in myths begun long ago. This lecture teases apart that tangled skein and asks: Who was the “real” Susan B. Anthony? And why does it matter?