The Pardoning of Susan B. Anthony

Womens March

At the 2017 Women’s March in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo by Callen Harty.

Today Donald Trump, the hero of nasty women everywhere, officially pardoned Susan B. Anthony for the crime of illegally voting in 1872.

Excuse me for laughing.

If any other President, on the 100th anniversary of woman’s suffrage in the United States, issued a pardon for Anthony it would be noted as a nice symbolic gesture to mark that anniversary. But when it is Trump the immediate reaction is that this was a cynical ploy to attract the votes of those suburban housewives he so desperately needs to win the next election and to whom he has brazenly appealed to with racist overtures about protecting their neighborhoods from the residents of low income housing.

At the signing ceremony today, he noted, “She was never pardoned. Did you know that?” And one cannot be blamed for assuming he didn’t know it either until the likelihood that some staffer recently read it in an article on the suffrage anniversary and thought it would be a grand gesture and a stroke of genius that would cause women everywhere to take off their aprons and head to the polls as soon as possible.

A known misogynist accused of sexually assaulting more than two dozen women signing a pardon for one of the earliest pioneers of women’s rights is beyond ironic. It is disgusting, especially when one knows his history with women. He is opposed to a woman’s right to choose. He has repeatedly denigrated strong women, particularly in politics, but more generally any that speak out against him. He has gone to court to fight the Equal Rights Amendment. A quick Google search on Trump and women’s rights reveals site after site listing the many ways his administration’s policies have harmed women. If he had been alive when Anthony cast her vote he would have called her a nasty woman and insisted that she pay the penalty for trying to break into the old boys’ club. Or he would have grabbed her pussy simply because he was famous and could.

The second irony is that Anthony and some other suffragettes held complicated views on race. Anthony was opposed to the 15th amendment, which enshrined the idea of the right to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” While she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton both said they opposed the amendment because it excluded women, they used racist tropes to back up their positions. One can imagine the racist Trump appreciating those viewpoints if he took the time to learn anything about it. Perhaps if he knew that part of Anthony’s history, he would have also given her a medal for defending the white race.

Finally, regardless of her faults, Anthony’s fight was to expand voting rights. Trump honoring her for that at a time when he and his Republican allies are doing everything in their power to limit voting is really not funny and I am no longer laughing. They have purged voter rolls, caused the postal service to cut hours and service, cut polling locations (particularly in minority neighborhoods), fought mail-in voting, and lied about fraud and potential issues with mailed ballots. If he thought he could get away with it, Trump would likely take the vote away from women and minorities again. If he could, he would return voting only to men who owned land. It would make it easier for him to win reelection, which is really all that he is concerned about now.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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