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Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words
By Lynn Sherr
New York: Times Books, 1995, 382 pages

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) was perhaps the most eloquent and influential voice in the early struggle for women's rights in the United States. While she dedicated herself to many issues, including the abolition of slavery, temperance, domestic violence, equal pay, coeducation, and financial autonomy, her chief legacy was as a leader of the woman suffrage movement. From the mid-1800s through the turn of the century, she organized suffrage conventions, lobbied legislators, petitioned politicians, and lectured throughout the country and abroad for what she took to be the most crucial political right of all — the vote. Unlike other women's rights activists, she insisted that the vote was the single most critical right, for without it none of the others would last. While she died 1906, fourteen years before the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, she nevertheless succeeded in changing many laws and attitudes and became one of America's most venerated public figures.

Failure is Impossible is an engaging and well-edited collection of excerpts from Anthony's speeches, letters, diaries, and interviews, woven together by Lynn Sherr's biographical commentary. The book examines all aspects of Anthony's life and work, from her childhood as the daughter of a Quaker activist and her early work in the temperance movement to her close friendships with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott and her efforts over nearly fifty years to secure the vote for women.

According to Lynn Sherr, Anthony remains very much a woman for our time. As a pioneer of the women's movement, she and her colleagues were not only the first to take up many of the issues with which today's feminists are struggling, but "they carefully, wittily, and sometimes painfully laid the groundwork for virtually every right" that women are either demanding or already take for granted today. "Modern feminists, whatever they call themselves, tend to believe that every problem they face is a new one, that every issue needs a new solution. In short, they are still trying to reinvent the wheel without realizing that the instruction manual has already been written."

Copyright 1995 by Scott London. All rights reserved.