On Election Day, 1872, Susan B. Anthony marched a group of 14 women from her home on Madison Street to this spot on West Main Street to vote, even though women were not legally allowed to do so.

The year before, the National Woman Suffrage Association adopted a strategy of urging women to attempt to vote and, after being turned away, to file suits in federal courts to challenge the laws that prevented women from voting. The legal basis for the challenge would be the recently adopted Fourteenth Amendment, part of which reads: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States”.

Fifty additional women tried to vote at different polling places in Rochester that day but they were turned away, as expected. Anthony and her group, who went to their ward’s barber shop to vote, persisted. The election inspectors, caught between the rock of Susan B. and the hard place of the law, let them vote. Everyone was surprised. Nine days later, everyone was arrested.

The women who were arrested were offered $500 bail. Everyone posted the bond except Anthony, who refused. The courts considered keeping her in pretrial confinement at the Albany County Jail, but let her loose. She went on a 29-city speaking tour, on the topic “Is it a Crime for a U.S. Citizen to Vote?”

Her case went before the grand jury in January. She plead not guilty and was given $1,000 bail. He lawyer paid it over her objections. The trial was in June.

The judge more or less admitted that he wrote his verdict, which directed the jury (all men, of course) to vote guilty. He gave Anthony what he assumed would be a few minutes to speak and she let loose, delivering the most famous speech in the history of the agitation for woman suffrage.

“You have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored.”[

She was fined $100, which she refused to pay. This put the judge in a bind. He could have her put in jail, but this would give her the opportunity to invoke her right of habeas corpus, which would have been heard by the US Supreme Court. They could have overturned his decision. The prosecutor entered motions of nolle prosequi in the cases of the 14 other women and they were released.

The three election inspectors went to trial immediately after Anthony. They, too were found guilty and fined $100, which they refused to pay. They were jailed. The local newspaper called their imprisonment ” a petty but malicious act of tyranny.” At the urging of Anthony and her supporters, President Ulysses S. Grant pardoned the inspectors in March, 1874. They were re-elected to their inspector positions the next day.

It would be 48 more years before women got the right to vote.

This monument was unveiled on August 22, 2009 on the 89th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment acknowledging the right of women to vote.. It is in Susan B. Anthony Park in the Susan B. Anthony Historic Area Near the Susan B. Anthony House and Museum on the Susan B. Anthony Trail. The sculpture is the work of Pepsy Kettavong.

The plaque says: “At a shop on this site, on November 5, 1872, Susan B. Anthony and 14 women from this neighborhood voted in the presidential election. Two weeks later, Miss Anthony was arrested in her home on Madison Street for this illegal action. Women struggled for 48 more years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, making it legal for women to vote. That amendment is known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.
Here’s a photo of Susan B and a close-up of the ballot box, plastered with “I voted” stickers.
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