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Susan B. Anthony


On this day in 1890, women from all over were in Jamestown taking part in the state’s first Woman’s Christian Temperance Union – or WCTU – convention, a 4-day, anti-liquor gathering.

When Jamestown was founded as a tent village in 1872, two of the first buildings erected were saloons. At the time of the convention, 18 years later, North Dakota was one year old, Jamestown had been operating as an incorporated city for seven years, and both were supposedly dry. The WCTU wanted to keep it that way.

The Jamestown Alert reported delegates came to town on every train – from the north, south, east and west. Sixty delegates were in town the day before the meetings began, and more arrived each day. Finally, there were so many people, they had to move from the Presbyterian Church to Anton Klaus’s skating rink.

One of the reasons so many people attended was the convention’s keynote speaker – suffragist Susan B. Anthony. “The first organization was in Albany, NY, in 1852,” she told the delegates, “and the men would not allow the women to speak.”

Anthony told them the Christian Temperance Society ignored female support, because the prevailing attitude was that women’s sole sphere of activity should be in the home. In fact, when she tried to speak at the gathering, the men shut her out and added Men’s to their society’s name.

Anthony countered by forming The Woman’s Christian Temperance Society, with herself as an officer. “Now women were welcomed,” she said, “and the work was largely carried on by them alone.” Of the married women in the cause, Anthony said, “those who had no children ought to labor for other women’s children and that the woman was free until she took the luxury of a husband, when she lost her rights.”

Miss Anthony was a Quaker who had ignored opposition and abuse for years. While campaigning for the abolition of slavery, hostile mobs came after her, people threw things at her, she was hung in effigy. In Syracuse, men dragged her image through the streets. Yet she went on, campaigning for women’s rights to their own property and earnings, and for their own labor unions.

In 1866, Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the American Equal Rights Assn., and in their Rochester newspaper, The Revolution, their masthead was “Men their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.”

Anthony was arrested for illegally voting in the city of Rochester, NY, in 1872. The city’s District Attorney asked for a change of venue because a jury might be prejudiced in her favor, so the trial was held in Canandaigua. The judge instructed the jury to find her guilty without discussion and fined her $100, plus courtroom fees. When she refused to pay, he let it go, because she would then lose her chance to appeal.

“Probably some wonder what those women are doing at the church,” read the Jamestown story. “They are there because their homes are in danger and can be better protected...if women are organized in some large band for [protection].”

At the close of the convention, the WCTU delegates joined to repeat their motto: “I am but one; I can not do everything, but I can do something; what I can do, I ought to do, and by the grace of God I will do.”


Erhart, Jerry. “When times were dry.” Century of Stories: Jamestown and Stutsman County. Fort Seward Historical Society, 1983.

Biography of Susan B. Anthony. <

Her Life


Bismarck Daily Tribune. 14 Sep 1890.

Credit: Bartholomew, Charles Lewis. "Cartoon Showing President Grover Cleveland Carrying Book 'What I know About Women's Clubs,' Being Chased with an Umbrella by Susan B. Anthony, as Uncle Sam Laughs in Background." Between 1892 and 1896. Prints and Photographs Division, Cartoon Drawings, Library of Congress.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm