September 25th, 2010
07:07 PM ET

Susan B. Anthony letter goes on sale for $15,000

Susan B. Anthony letter wrote this letter in 1905, a year before her death.

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."

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Filed under: History
soundoff (95 Responses)
  1. Simon LeVay

    Mary Wollstonecraft was not a contemporary of Susan B. Anthony - she died 23 years before Anthony was born.

    September 25, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      "Contemporaries" does not only refer to those living at the same time. It is frequently used to denote those people who have a shared or similar goal and those who use similar tactics.

      September 25, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • The_Mick

      No, contemporaries means they lived at the same time. Ideologues or other words identify people with similar goals, etc.

      September 25, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Randy Johnson

      David is right

      September 27, 2010 at 3:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      The_Mick is right and David is wrong which also makes Randy Johnson wrong.

      September 27, 2010 at 4:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Da Blogster

      Very well said Alex! I have a (ahem) woman that works directly under me. She is extremely difficult to work with because she's so busy trying to 'prove herself' that she's shown herself to be incompetent. But she continues trying to be 'one of the guys' until a mouse is seen in the office... then she hops on a chair and screams. Truly disgusting. Guess your statement about women being women until they are equal to men is true (that they cease to be women), until a mouse is seen. They just can't get rid of that instinct I suppose... lol

      September 27, 2010 at 4:42 am | Report abuse |
    • gjnews

      TO da blogsta: just because she's afraid of the mouse has nothing NOTHING to do with being a woman...i am a woman and if i had seen the mouse i would have walked over and pet it... i think you re dumber than the woman who work in your office.

      September 27, 2010 at 6:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Chaiah

      I was going to agree with David but decided to look at a dictionary.

      Merriam Webster's definition is as follows:

      Contemporary (noun)

      1: on that is contemporary with another
      2: one of the same or nearly the same age as another


      He was a contemporary of George Washington.
      She is politically very different from most of her contemporaries. has nigh to the same information.

      So, it appears that David is incorrect (as were Susan B. Anthony and I) in our understanding of the word.

      Oh, and the Da Blogster, just because a woman might be afraid of a mouse (I am not, by the way), how much of a man can one be if afraid of a little baby poop or spit up? (Note: that was rhetorical. Look it up.) Using anecdotal situations to try to prove a point about group of people is, well, ignorant.

      September 27, 2010 at 6:58 am | Report abuse |
  2. Reasonable Person

    She sounds like a brave and courageous leader - I wish I had known her.

    September 25, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikey

      Matilda Joslyn Gage was a contemporary of Anthony and was easily as important. This article has forgotten her. Susan B. Anthony was a har nut, but Matilda carried a revolver when she picketed the White House on a Sunday (to protect herself against the "Christians" who didn't like the picketing on Sunday...) Look her up: She was also the Mother-in-law of L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz!

      September 25, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. MFTEditor

    It has not changed a bit since 1903 for women. On the surface, perhaps we got to 'vote', but see the nasty comments from not-so-brave readers who leave a comment that she sounds like a 'b...', etc. And the writer of the article indicating that Anthony's tone is 'aggressive'. To whom? Of course, to the patronizing male population of her time. She is defending herself and her kind and of course she has no right to do so. If a woman stands up and voice her opinion she is considered a b... and aggressive by her male counter part. Today remains the same and it was so a hundred years ago.

    September 25, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roamingirl

      @MFTEditor – Well said.

      September 25, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer C.

      Yes, it's hard to undo thousands of years of cultural tradition. People are so deeply indoctrinated that it doesn't just disappear overnight. And the fastest growing religions in the U.S. all sideline women. It's more important than ever that women strategize to prevent cultural regression, or at least have the means to fight back if it comes by force. Taking measures to stop the spread of theocracy would be a start.

      September 26, 2010 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Jill

      Yes, there is definately a long way to go before women are equal to men in the U.S. let alone the other undeveloped areas of the world. I do appreciate very much when the women who went before us have done. Maybe the change is small to some, but many women and men in the U.S. have made great contributions to women's rights in the past hundred years. Some women have had notorious distinction among the scholars and policitians and others have gone unknown as nameless single mom working to support her family. They all deserve our appreciate for what they have contributed to women's rights.

      September 27, 2010 at 4:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      A girl and a woman are both females but they are not equal. When a woman becomes "equal" to a man, the woman ceases to be one.

      September 27, 2010 at 4:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Chaiah

      MFTEditor, I just want to make a point that her letter was, indeed, aggressive and there is nothing wrong with that, in my opinion. Kudos to Susan B Anthony for not feeling like she had to be all nice and genteel when expressin herself. I understand what you are trying to imply, but in my opinion, you seem to be implying that aggression is a bad thing and it isn't necessarily. Raab was making the observation that Anthony was not afraid to express herself... and she, quite obviously, was not.

      September 27, 2010 at 7:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Patti in Dallas

      Alex, what exactly does your statement mean? Please explain your thought.

      September 27, 2010 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. tess

    I think the article is saying a contemporary in the fight for equal rights, and Anthony is saying that she wanted an autograph from a great woman. She was an amazing woman.

    September 25, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. janda

    Aren't these the women that went around chopping up saloons with hatchets because they served alcohol?

    September 25, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Suffrage and temperance had many activists in common, but Susan B. Anthony was not one of the militant temperance folks. You're thinking of Carrie A. Nation. Susan B. Anthony is the reason why women now have the right to vote.

      September 25, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • janda

      You're correct! I had a temporary brain lapse...ha!

      September 25, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer C.

      According to a recent traveling museum collection about the suffrage movement, the straw that broke the camel's back was when the wives of members of congress started sit-ins at the capitol building and were arrested, and it shamed the congress into (finally) doing the right thing.

      September 26, 2010 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. Shelley


    September 25, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jesus

    Times certainly have changed. Most husbands serve as "pets" for their wives. The family jewels are now retained in the wife's purse. Susan B. would be proud of what has happened.

    September 25, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith1952

      Jesus shouldn't you be hanging around somewhere else?

      September 25, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesus

      Hanging around? Is that your idea of a joke? I hung around on a cross for too long before I died, rose from the dead, and became the most famous zombie in the entire world. You think that it's easy applying for a job in this economy in a beard and a long flowing robe with a blue palor on my face? Try it sometime.

      September 26, 2010 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
    • jasper

      You are an idiot. If you have something intelligent to add to the conversation, fine, otherwise get off.

      September 27, 2010 at 6:51 am | Report abuse |
  8. Judee

    I am surprised at the hatred towards women expressed in some of these responses. I shouldn't be, I know, but I still am.

    September 25, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer C.

      Feral primates.

      September 26, 2010 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
    • LP

      That's what people are like. In the end, people really aren't better educated and don't have any more sense than they did in 1903.

      September 27, 2010 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
  9. The_Mick

    I've always found it interesting that a letter, signature, etc. is worth so much, especially when we can get a photocopy that's identical in every way or even cleared up of flaws in the cases of signatures with photographs, etc. Somehow, the fact that that person actually touched the same piece of paper seems to make some sort of connection. I have an autograph of the great pianist Lang Lang and a photo of us standing together which I proudly display over my piano. The composer/musician Jay Ungar sent me an autographed copy of the sheetmusic for his "Ashokan Farewell" [the theme of the PBS "Civil War" series by Ken Burns] after learning my original copy was destroyed in a small living room fire (triggered by a laptop power supply). That's also on display. We somehow feel uplifted by knowing we are in the presence of something that was in the presence of someone great!

    September 25, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seriously?

      Could you be a little more full of yourself?

      September 26, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Jill

      I understand. I cried when I visited national archives and talk the declaration of independence (although I think that was a copy commissioned immediately after the signing) and Rosa Parks arrest citation. A photo copy would not have delivered the same experience.

      September 27, 2010 at 4:11 am | Report abuse |
  10. Sister Suffragette

    Some of the males posting on here should keep their vile ignorance to themselves. Thanks to a lifetime of dedication to a just cause by Susan B. Anthony as well as by her contemporaries, women have the vote and *some* equal footing with men, but we have a long way to go. She was brave, and amazing- we could all learn from her and do our part to fight for what is right (shout out to all of the male feminists out there, you guys rock too). ps- Rochester, NY REPRESENT!

    September 25, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith1952

      I am married to an independent woman with many degrees and she has pursued her life as she pleased although we both made enough compromises to do our lives together. I enjoy and respect my wife and I would consider her a feminist. From my perspective what feminist need to do now is learn how to be women. It seems that with the rights and responsibilities you have earned many of you have abandoned your femininity.

      September 25, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sister Suffragette

      Keith1952, if your wife truly is a feminist, she would be appalled that you would say something like that. "It seems that with the rights and responsibilities you have earned many of you have abandoned your femininity." I am not even sure what you are trying to say- should we not wear pants or ride motorcycles? Or is this an attack on how some women express/present their gender?

      September 25, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer C.

      @ Sister, Actually, they are just expressing the aggression and juvenile behavior that is both stereotypical and condoned by the culture. And if someone is complaining about females' lack of femininity, then I suggest that individual examine his or her own behavior and assumptions to see how it might be creating the perception.

      September 26, 2010 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
    • jim

      Sister....really? hate much? get over yourself. "vile ignorance"!!! GRRRRRR. how are you any different?

      September 26, 2010 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • LP

      To men, "femininity" often just means vulnerability. You want them to be weak and vulnerable, you want them to believe your idiotic lies and pine after you because you're so great. Women who have their own education, confidence and have full human rights aren't going to do that. They have confidence in themselves and can take you or leave you. Don't like it? Tough. The toothpaste is already out of the tube.

      Femininity is really about strength, grace and empathy. And yes, women still have that.

      September 27, 2010 at 3:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Men and women will never be equal...they are different physically, emotionally, and mentally. The right to vote for which Susan B. Anthony so valiantly fought, should not be used as a milestone as it was only extended to women in order to expand the pool of voters who could then be manipulated into give a different group of men the chance to exploit the masses. Politicians are chosen long before the first vote is cast. The only reason the two parties bother with elections is to maintain the illusion of governance by the people.

      The only reason women are able proclaim their equality to men is because there are men willing to stand behind the women and support their claim of equality.

      September 27, 2010 at 4:08 am | Report abuse |
  11. Lea sanchez

    Old goat,your breath is more deadly than the sea salt, and your opinion of women is your opinion of yourself

    September 25, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. captnenglish

    As an academic, it hurts me to the core to these national treasures sold for profit!

    September 25, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith1952

      go get a real job

      September 25, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sister Suffragette

      I agree, I would have liked to see it donated to the Susan B. Anthony house/museum, or perhaps the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY which is where the Seneca Falls Convention was held. That way it could be used for education and appreciated by many.

      September 25, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer C.

      I guess the tax write-off was inadequate to satisfy the seller. Maybe the buyer will bequeath it to a women's museum.

      September 26, 2010 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Moses

      A women's museum? The NO ONE would see it!

      September 27, 2010 at 6:54 am | Report abuse |
  13. One two three

    Susan B. Anthony was a Quaker. Quakers have for Centuries led struggles for human and poliltical rights. Susan B. Anthony was a Great American!

    September 25, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith1952

      Oh!! Right, those Quakers were great humanitarians as long as you believed the same things they did. William Penn one of the most famous Quakers loved to hang Baptist, and he hanged quite a few. He once flayed and disemboweled two women friends of a woman who he was trying to get to recant her beliefs. She held to her beliefs so he finally got tired of trying to convert her so he just went ahead and killed her a couple of years later.

      September 25, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer C.

      Quakers have some good points. And, they are well-known advocates for global disarmament. We know such a prohibition would only create a black market run by gangsters who would manufacture, distribute and use arms against everyone else. And we see how effective it is for the safety of women when only the military and police have firearms (not). So, let's just say I think they are misguided in some respects. I'm reminded that Anthony specifically said women should not depend on men for protection. I'll wager that, if she were alive today, she'd be glad to join me at the range for target practice. Be prepared, as the Girl Scouts always said.

      September 26, 2010 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
  14. Sarah

    Cry babies w/ NO LIVES! I'm one of em! Stay at home mom, barefoot & pregnant, not allowed to work! But I'm happy bein told what to do! I have a Man takin care of th finances while I do what a woman shud do, cook, clean, care for my 6 children with one on the way! I have no friends, I stay home & wait for my husband to come home frm 16hr shifts if he decides to go out for beers w/ the boyz, I eat alone w/ the children, no complaints! He is the man, he turns me on when he doesn't let me eat if I messed up the house & cudnt clean it b4 he gets home! A good swift kick in the head always wakes me up & puts me back in line! Go burn ur bra's lady's but leave the votes to the men! They're smarter & know what's best for us! Trust men more!

    September 25, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • heather

      Hmmmm. I don't know if this is a joke but you clearly need a history lesson. Women fought long and hard to begin this process of securing resources and political representation because husbands sometimes die unexpectedly. Mothers and their six kids were often left at the mercy of a cruel society that made it hard for them to provide for their children. You'll be lost and your children may go hungry if such a situation finds you....okay, I know there is public funding - but only if there is the political will to provide it.

      I agree that a femininity movement needs now to rise. It has quietly started and is the next natural step in women's evolution. It's a Mother's movement, restoring elements of family that have suffered as women advanced while protecting and building on the opportunities women know today. The rights of a Mother need to be assessed as those that are different than a man or a woman.

      I believe this time is upon us and Generation X will play this out. BTW, kudo's to amazing American husbands, Iike mine who relish in the successes of their wives in the home and outside of it. Their support is absolutely necessary.

      September 26, 2010 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Art

      There must be millions of men looking for a nice lady like you.

      September 26, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • jasper

      WE have no lives? I also suspect this may be a joke, because it is so over the top, but if it isn't, I'm SO glad you're in the minority. And though I know this sounds snobbish, your spelling and language use comes across as far less educated than most of the other posts on here.
      But I suppose if 'stayin at home n takin care of the kids' is your priority, then who cares about your education?

      September 27, 2010 at 6:59 am | Report abuse |
  15. marc

    I have a Susan B. Anthony dollar but it is hard getting someone to give me a real dollar for it.

    September 26, 2010 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      hmmm. that's a tough one. try a bank

      September 26, 2010 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
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