The Revolution – Women, their Rights and Nothing Less

The Revolution was a weekly women’s rights newspaper, owned and managed by Susan B. Anthony, edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Parker Pillsbury. It was published in New York City, and the first edition appeared on January 8, 1868, during a time of division within the woman’s suffrage movement over the 15th amendment protecting voting rights for black men.

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) were both social reformers, abolitionists, leaders of the women’s rights movement and lifelong friends and allies after meeting in 1851. Parker Pillsbury (1809-1898) was a minister, anti-slavery activist, and a vehement male feminist and supporter of universal suffrage. He often worked closely with radical abolitionist Stephen Symonds Foster and edited the abolitionist newspapers Herald of Freedom and the National Anti-Slavery Standard.

During the Civil War, leaders of the movement including Anthony and Cady Stanton had put their fight for women’s rights on pause to focus on immediate abolition of slavery. After the Civil War, the Equal Rights Association was formed in 1866 as a coalition between the female and black civil rights movement to advocate for universal suffrage. But many civil rights leaders wanted to continue prioritizing black male suffrage, which was not acceptable for Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Anthony and Stanton vehemently fought for universal suffrage and refused to continue putting black men’s rights over women’s rights, which cost them the needed financial support of abolitionists and republicans. This, as well as anti-feminist sentiments of some black male suffragists, led them to accept the help of George Francis Train, a wealthy entrepreneur and Democrat, who supported women’s rights, but opposed black enfranchisement. This controversial decision was not appreciated by many abolitionists and supporters of black civil rights. Train sponsored a lecture tour and kickstarted the The Revolution.

The paper’s motto was: “Principle, not Policy; Justice, not Favors. — Men, their Rights and Nothing More; Women, their Rights and Nothing Less.” The first edition stated: “The Revolution will contain a series of articles, beginning next week, to prove the power of the ballot in elevating the character and condition of woman. We shall show that the ballot will secure for woman equal place and equal wages in the world of work, that it will open to her the schools, colleges, professions and all the opportunities and advantages of life; that in her hand it will be a moral power to stay the tide of vice and crime and misery on every side.”

The Revolution had a massive influence on the national women’s rights movement and the fight for female enfranchisement. It gave Anthony and Stanton a space to make their voices heard and gaining support for their agenda, which was not only voting rights, but a reorganization of political, religious and social systems – a “revolution”. It also offered a forum for its (mostly female) readers to exchange opinions and debate.

The articles expressed their combative, and often radical opinions on women’s issues from reproductive rights, domestic abuse, divorce, prostitution, education, socioeconomical and political status to workplace discrimination, unionization of working-class women. It criticized the way women were expected to dress and to behave in marriage.

The Revolution started a campaign to save Hester Vaughn, a Philadelphia domestic servant who was accused of killing her newborn child and sentenced to death. Stanton argued that Hester Vaughn had been raped and was forced to give birth alone, sick and destitute, which had caused the infant’s death. She was eventually pardoned.

After George Francis Train was arrested in England for supporting the Fenian cause of an Independent Irish Republic, they lost his financial backing. Although Pillsbury only received a small salary and Stanton and Anthony none, the paper accumulated a debt of $10.000. Still, they refused to sell advertisements for quack medicines including abortion inducing drugs – a common revenue source for other periodicals – and stuck to this principle until the end.

Anthony was forced to sell the paper which continued two more years as periodical, much more conservative, covering mostly society, literature and less radical and controversial women’s rights issues. Anthony assumed the debt personally and paid it off over the course of the next 6 years by giving lectures.

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