She Votes!

Pardon Me?

This letter from Susan B. Anthony was obtained exclusively by Lynn Sherr and Ellen Goodman, co-hosts of the She Votes! podcast.

Pardon Me?

This letter from Susan B. Anthony was obtained exclusively by Lynn Sherr and Ellen Goodman, co-hosts of the She Votes! podcast.

Mount Hope Cemetery
Rochester, New York
August 18, 2020

Dear Mr. Trump,

I was tickled to hear through my sources in the modern world that you have issued a pardon for my conviction in 1873 for the crime of voting while female. The only thing that saves this pathetic stunt from being totally laughable is the sweet irony that you, a singularly scandalous Republican president, seek to excuse the outrage of an earlier, scandal-ridden Republican administration with the stroke of a Sharpie.

Whatever that is.

Honestly, Mr. Trump, can’t you get anything right?

I do not want and do not accept a pardon from the hand of the man who grabbed my spiritual offspring by the pussy. Whatever that is.

When I voted in 1872 for Ulysses S. Grant for president, I did nothing unlawful. I was simply exercising my citizen’s right to vote. Then I was arrested, charged and tried, simply because I was a female citizen. Still am, despite my subterranean address.

The affront to my civil rights continued. The laws were all made by men, interpreted by men, and administered by men, in favor of men and against women. At my trial, the jurors were not my peers—but twelve white men. And I was not even permitted to testify in my own defense. My lawyer, Mr. Selden (former Lt-Governor of New York) summed up eloquently: “If the same act of voting had been done by her brother, it would have been not only innocent, but honorable and laudable; but having been done by a woman it is said to be a crime. I believe this is the first instance in which a woman has been arraigned in a criminal court, merely on account of her sex.”

Finally, the judge compounded the insult by unlawfully directing the guilty verdict at my trial and dismissing the jury. As I told him then, “I ask not leniency…but rather the full rigors of the law.”

So which part of “the full rigors of the law” do you not understand, Mr. Trump? Oh wait, you’re the one who kept yelling “Lock ‘er up” to that wonderfully ambitious woman running for president who’d done nothing wrong. For the record, I predicted that a woman would become president of the United States long before your father got his hands on his first piece of real estate.

But back to my conviction. The judge fined me $100. I told him I’d never pay it. Actually, I channeled my best Sarah Bernhardt. “May it please your honor,” I said, dramatically, “I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.” He said he wouldn’t put me in jail until I did. So I didn’t.

But I never asked for a pardon. And surely not from you, standing there today next to that dreadful woman who hijacked my name to hawk her antifeminist, antiabortion malarkey.

I did, however, file a petition to get the fine overturned, because that would have indicated that the conviction was wrong. There’s a very wise scholar named Ann Gordon who summed it up rather nicely today in a Tweet. Whatever that is:

“She didn’t want pardon. She’d done nothing wrong. She sought ‘remission of fine’ from Congress, action that would reverse judge’s action.”

As the first suffrage felon, I dined out on the story for years, raising loads of money for the suffrage treasury. Audiences loved the part when I was arrested and taken downtown by the marshall on a trolley car. When the conductor asked for my fare, I pointed to the lawman and said, “I am traveling at the government’s expense. Ask him for my fare.”

In short, Mr. Trump, I’m proud of my vote. And now that it’s legal, I hope every woman in America exercises her right to vote you out of office in November. Keep your hands off this felon-at-rest. You think you can pardon me? Put your ear to the ground, Mr. Trump. There’s not a ghost of a chance I’ll pardon you.

Susan B. Anthony

Lynn Sherr

Lynn Sherr is an award-winning journalist and has been covering politics and women’s issues for more than 40 years, mostly at ABC News, where she was a correspondent for World News Tonight and 20/20. Her best-selling books include Swim: Why We Love the Water; Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space and Failure is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words. Sherr currently freelances on a variety of platforms. Follow her on Twitter: @LynnSherr.

Ellen Goodman

Ellen Goodman is the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Boston Globe and the Washington Post Writers Group. She is the author of seven books and co founder of The Conversation Project.