What green advocates can learn from Susan B. Anthony
By Regina Hauser, The Natural Step International
The Natural Step International
Regina Hauser is a board director for The Natural Step International and a sustainability consultant. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How much do you know about Susan B. Anthony? For most of us, she was the leader of the woman’s suffrage movement and the image on an ill-fated dollar coin. I recently heard a talk about Anthony, which prompted me to head to the library and pick up her book: "Susan B. Anthony: In her Own Words."
My history classes in high school gave the women’s suffrage movement short shrift, noting the 19th amendment’s passage in 1920 and giving us the names of the leaders: Anthony, Katie Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, and little else. The fact that it took more than 70 years for women to get the vote, and that these women gave their lives to “The Cause” wasn’t deemed important.
I have often heard sustainability advocacy compared to the suffrage and civil rights movements. In the past I didn’t see these comparisons as apt, in part because each movement had specific legislation as its goal. If one looks more generally at the issues of equality for all people regardless of any immutable characteristic, it is clear that these movements are very similar. All of these movements seek to change culture and attitudes as well as policies.
As I read the letters and diary entries of Anthony, I saw many similarities in the movements. In the 19th century, leaders failed to see the women’s vote as a priority, just like clean energy policy today keeps getting tabled.
Even the abolitionists, who were often allied with women’s suffragists, did not want to take the risk that the 15th Amendment would not pass if it included enfranchising women as well as black men. Congress and state legislatures’ attentions were taken up with the interests of business lobbies even then — agricultural taxes and tariffs were more important than the vote for women. This sounds very familiar, as clean energy policy has taken a back seat to pumping up the economy.
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