One century ago today, the United States ratified the 19th Amendment, which awarded white women the hard-fought right to vote. To celebrate this (and pull attention from the Democratic National Convention), President Donald Trump announced that he would grant a full pardon to one of the suffrage movement’s most notable champions: Susan B. Anthony. Ok!
In 1872, Anthony was arrested, convicted, and fined $100 for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York. She later protested the charges and the fine in a highly publicized court case, making her one of the women’s suffrage movement’s most visible leaders advocating for the right to vote, the abolition of slavery, and equal pay for equal work. To say that Trump's pardon of her — a woman who fought for freedom and equality — is perplexing, would be a massive understatement.
Trump announced the full pardon during a signing of a commemorative proclamation for the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment on Tuesday, saying, “She was never pardoned. Did you know that? She was never pardoned. What took so long?” As his 26th pardon as president, Trump stepped outside his usual criteria of supporters and political allies. Typically, he reserves pardons for people he personally knows such as longtime political adviser Roger Stone, who was convicted on several charges making false statements to Congress, obstruction of a congressional investigation, and tampering with a witness. Anthony, however, believed in many values that directly oppose Trump.
Anthony believed that the right to vote was the necessary foundation for all other advancements — and fought for this right. She regularly risked being arrested for traveling the country giving speeches and sharing her ideas in public as it was viewed as improper for women to give speeches in public. She and fellow suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton co-founded a newspaper called The Revolution. Its motto: “Men their rights and nothing more; women their rights and nothing less.”
Her arrest in 1872 brought national attention to the movement. She continued to give speeches, gathering thousands of signatures on petitions, and lobbying Congress every year on behalf of women. She died 14 years before women were given the right to vote in 1920.
Trump pardoning Anthony, a woman known for fighting for voters’ rights, takes on heavy notes of irony given that 1) he has a history of disrespecting women and 2) he is brazenly attempting to repress voter rights by dismantling the United States Postal Service. Even as he honors a woman who has been dead for over 100 years, he continually derails and treads upon the rights of women now.
Since the start of his presidency, Trump disbanded the White House Council on Women and Girls, pushed to defund Planned Parenthood and damaged women’s healthcare, revoked an Obama-era fair pay policy, and eliminated policy helping close the gender pay gap. Plus, he has constantly berated women in leadership roles and has been accused of sexual harassment by over 20 women.
Trump may be congratulating himself for pardoning a woman who was wrongly convicted in 1872. He may claim that he has “done more for women than just about any President in history.” But in truth, Trump is doing nothing more than putting on a show to distract critics of the many ways he's harmed both women's rights and voting rights — and he's using a woman who can't even speak for herself to do it.