Advance Notice: Briefs

On this day in 1870: Susan B. Anthony rallies in Detroit for women’s right to vote 

By: - November 29, 2022 5:08 am

Laina G. Stebbins graphic

On Nov. 29, 1870, Susan B. Anthony demanded the right to vote for women during a visit to Detroit. 

Anthony, who was born on Feb. 15, 1820, in Adams, Mass., spoke during the Northwestern Women’s Suffrage Association assembly. 

Susan B. Anthony | Wikimedia Commons

After her presentation, the assembly adopted a resolution that read, in part, “That under a republican government suffrage is not a privilege merely, but a right of a citizen, and a duty.” 

Adelle Hazlett of Hillsdale presided over the assembly.  

Two years after the Detroit visit, Anthony was arrested in her hometown of Rochester, N.Y., for voting in violation of laws that allowed only men to vote. Anthony was convicted in a widely publicized trial. She refused to pay the fine and no further was taken. 

By 1855, women were actively signing petitions asking for the right to vote, according to the Library of Michigan. In 1871, Nannette Gardner became the first woman to vote in a Detroit election. Laura Osborn in 1917 became the first woman elected to public office when city voters placed her on the Detroit Board of Education.

A ceremony was held on May 8, 1917, when Michigan Gov. Albert Sleeper signed the Damon-Flowers bill. The measure authorized by the Republican from Bad Axe placed on the ballot a referendum to allow women to vote in presidential elections. Voters approved a state constitutional amendment the following year making the historic measure law throughout Michigan. 

The seminal Sleeper signing came before Congress passed the 19th Amendment in 1919. Michigan became one of the first states to ratify it on June 10, 1919, passing it in unanimous fashion. 

By August 1920, the amendment was ratified by all states, making this year the national centennial. A photograph of women watching the Sleeper bill signing was published in the “Michigan Suffragist” newsletter.

Susan B. Anthony died on March 13, 1906 at age 86.  Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s second female governor, proclaimed March 14, 2022, as Susan B. Anthony Day in the state. 


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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.