Matrilineal Monday: Susan B. Anthony and our Family

Women's Suffrage Postcard set, 1 of 3- Susan B. Anthony. Anna Howard Shaw and Frances Willard are the other two. Issued c1890-1910?
Susan B. Anthony, 1 of 3 in a Women’s Suffrage Postcard set. (Anna Howard Shaw and Frances Willard are the other two honored.) Issued c1890-1910?

McMurray Family, Payne Family (Click for Family Tree)

Today is “Susan B. Anthony Day” and we should all be celebrating her birth that occurred 15 Feb 1820. She was a tireless worker for women’s rights, so any of us who are female, our mothers, and their mothers, plus the mothers of those mothers, (depending where you are on the generational spectrum) all owe Susan B. a big “THANK YOU!!”

Various bills have been put forth to make 15 February a National Holiday. A number of social activists already have National Holidays honoring their work- Martin Luther King, of course, and even Ceasar Chavez recently got an official day. But Susan B. Anthony was passed over- again, by Congress and the President. How can that be, when her work benefits 51% of our population, and cuts across economic status and race??  Wherever she is, she is probably just shaking her head… women fought for abolition too, and hoped that they would get the right to vote when African-Americans did. She and her sisters wanted the government to make all Americans truly equal, as stated in the Declaration of Independence. Apparently the “all men” in that document meant that literally- black men got the right to vote, white men already had it, but all women had to fight for many more years to get the “right” to vote. We should not have to fight now to get a day for Susan and the other women who worked so tirelessly for women’s equality.

Okay, you might say, Susan B. Anthony was put on a coin- shouldn’t that ‘count’? (Bad pun- sorry.) They put her likeness on the front of a silver dollar, BUT left the same reverse as on the previous silver dollar, an eagle landing on the moon. They couldn’t design a coin reverse for her too? How does an eagle on the moon relate to woman’s suffrage?

And who wants to use a heavy silver dollar when they can use a lightweight paper bill? Another problem was that the new smaller silver dollars looked so similar to quarters that the public did not want to use them, and vending machine companies fought it. Thus the demand was small and Susan’s coins were only minted for a total of four years; they are no longer available from the US Mint. Congress has, however, authorized the US Mint to issue  a “First Spouse” series- all the wives of US Presidents. While First Ladies have done a lot of good work, it pales in comparison to what the suffragists did, endured, and accomplished. Where is our set of coins for women who worked for a social and political revolution?

It seems that our government just does not want to honor the women who worked for social and political justice.

Even Fox News thinks that Susan B. Anthony should be honored with a National Holiday. There are five states where Susan B. Anthony’s birthday is a state holiday: California, Florida, New York, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  Oh wait- West Virginia celebrates it on election day but only in even years (??), so does that really count?

Edward B. Payne
Edward B. Payne, probably circa 1910. Family treasure.

Edward Biron Payne (the grandfather of Dr. Edward A. McMurray) may have met Susan B. Anthony; at the least he most likely heard her speak, and read her articles. (He read everything.) In 1895, suffragists in California invited Susan B. Anthony and Anna Howard Shaw of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) to attend their Woman’s Congress. They were pushing to get woman’s suffrage passed by voters in California, and needed help. (A woman’s suffrage bill was passed in 1893 by the CA state legislature, but the governor vetoed it, saying that women voting was unconstitutional.) The Woman’s Congress was held in San Francisco in May, and Edward B. Payne probably took the ferry across the bay and listened to Susan B. Anthony’s words. Edward himself was very committed to equality- he was a Christian Socialist, a Unitarian minister, and journalist. He also had founded a Utopian colony called Altruria, where it was required that the Vice-President be a woman. We don’t know if he knew Ninetta (Wiley) Eames by this time, but Berkeley, California was a small town, so he may have known her. Ninetta was a suffragist, and would later become his second wife.

Susan B. Anthony spoke around the state in support of women’s suffrage, including at a Unitarian Church in Berkeley. We have no proof that Edward was in attendance, but it would be very surprising if he was not sitting in the front row at that meeting or others. We know he regularly attended lectures, and he also gave a series of lectures to support woman’s suffrage. Rev. Payne loved a great philosophical discussion, and a social revolution for the people. I do hope that he got to meet with her and discourse!

Berkeley's Citizen Suffrage League thanks Edward B. Payne and others for their aid in the suffrage movement in California. San Francisco Call, 19 Nov 1896, page 11, column 2, via
Berkeley’s Citizen Suffrage League thanks Edward B. Payne and others for their aid in the suffrage movement in California. San Francisco Call, 19 Nov 1896, page 11, column 2, via

A thank you to Rev. Payne and others was published after the vote was defeated. Southern California had passed it, but San Francisco, more populous, defeated the bill. Saloonkeepers and the liquor industry, more prevalent in San Francisco,  were afraid that if women got the vote, a prohibition of alcohol would be next.

All women today in the US should honor Susan B. Anthony on her birthday, and really, every day. Men need to as well- when women have equality, men benefit economically, socially, emotionally. Having the vote is powerful, and we need to honor the suffragists by using that vote in every election.


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. “Make Susan B. Anthony Day a national holiday” by Phyllis Chessler.
  2. Susan B. Anthony Day-
  3. “Brief Berkeley Notes,” San Francisco Call, 19 Nov. 1896, p11, c2, via
  4. National Susan B. Anthony House & Museum-
  5. Gayle Gullett has done some excellent writing on the California Woman Suffrage movement. She has an article on JSTOR: “Constructing the Woman Citizen and Struggling for the Vote in California, 1896-1911.” Gayle Gullett, Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 69, No. 4, Woman Suffrage: The View from the Pacific (Nov., 2000), pp. 573-593.
    She also wrote a book on the topic: Becoming Citizens: The Emergence and Development of the California Women’s Movement, 1880-1911.Urbana and Chicago:  University of Illinois Press, 2000. See a review at
  6. Here is a good resource on the California Suffrage Movement:
    The California Plan: California’s Suffrage Strategy and Its Effects in Other States and the National Suffrage Campaign” by Lauren Abel


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