A newly discovered letter written by civil rights leader Susan B. Anthony decrying the treatment of women as "pets" has gone on sale for $15,000.
The letter offers a rare, personal glimpse into the powerful emotions behind the fight for women's equal rights, said Nathan Raab, Vice President of The Raab Collection, which is offering the letter for sale.
"This letter has the unique perspective of being simultaneously a reflection of the pain of her female contemporaries at being shut out of society's privileges, and also the optimism with which they worked for equal rights," Raab said.
The letter is dated February 11, 1905, a year before Anthony's death, and 15 years before the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was ratified on August 18, 1920.
Typed on "National American Women Suffrage Association" letterhead, the letter is addressed to "sirs" at the Heitmuller Art Co., an art and autograph dealer in Washington. The company wanted Anthony to buy autographs of historical figures, not a single woman among them.
"I have no doubt that your autographs are very fine and the portraits of all the distinguished men you mention must be fine also, but I am especially interested in the autograph signatures and the pictures of distinguished women," she wrote.
She mentioned her contemporaries in the movements for temperence, suffrage and abolition, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary Wollstonecraft, as examples of women worthy of recognition.
"When you get a collection of autographs and portraits of the distinguished women of the last century … I will talk about patronizing you," she wrote.
"But while women are by the law excluded from a voice in the government under which they live, I can only work for their emancipation. I know you think women are the pets of society. That they may be, but to be a pet is not to be an equal, and what I want is for women to be equal before the law in every respect.”
The aggressive tone taken by Anthony is uncommon, as is her reference to women as pets – the rarity of which are reflected in the price tag, Raab said.
"The mocking and aggressive tone in her letter is extremely uncommon and indicates a certain amount of personal pain at feeling perhaps society still did not look on women as equals," he said. "The price reflects the rarity of such a frank communication of Anthony."