Susan B. Anthony, along with a number of other women, were allowed to cast their votes in a Federal election in Rochester in 1872.
On November 5, 1872, Anthony cast her ballot for Republican Ulysses S. Grant and was elated at having taken direct action to achieve suffrage. In a letter to close friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she wrote, “Well I have been & gone done it! Positively voted the republican ticket—strait—this A.M. at 7 o’clock & swore my vote in at that.”
Several weeks after she voted she was arrested in her home in Rochester. After her arrest, she was taken to a Federal office where she discovered that the other dozen or so women who had voted and the election inspectors who permitted her to vote, had been arrested as well.
The Federal government decided to single out Anthony for prosecution. The first phase of the legal proceedings began in federal district court in Albany in 1873. There was no federal courthouse in the City, so the initial hearings were held in upstairs chambers in City Hall. (That would be the first City Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1880; its replacement is still located on Eagle St. in the same location.)
In the 3rd week of January 1873 Anthony was indicted by grand jury of 20 men in the Northern District Court, “for knowingly, wrongfully, and unlawfully voting for a member of Congress without having a lawful right to vote…the said Susan B. Anthony being then and there a person of the female sex.”
At least 8 of the men were Albany City men; 1 was a deputy sheriff and the others were well-to-do businessmen (including James Goold, owner of the largest carriage factory in Albany).
Anthony went to trial about 6 months later in western New York. She was convicted. She never paid served time and never paid her fine. The indictment and the trial made her a cause celebre across the nation, which is capitalized upon to bring further attention and support for women’s suffrage.
Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor