How Susan B. Anthony Used Scrapbooks to Talk Back to the Media

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Aug. 26 2013 1:00 PM

How Susan B. Anthony Used Scrapbooks to Talk Back to the Media

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

The activists who struggled for seven decades to get women the right to vote followed the press closely. Scrapbooks were one of their tools.

Nineteenth-century scrapbooks were more like today's digital bookmarks and favorites lists than simple memorabilia collections—nearly everyone used them to save articles, stories, and poems that they might not see again if they left them buried in piles of unindexed newspapers. Abraham Lincoln's scrapbooks tracked his debates with Stephen Douglas, Mark Twain's gathered trial records for possible stories, and women's rights activists collected news items on attacks on women as fuel for speeches.

Advertisement

Susan B. Anthony's 33-volume scrapbook, now at the Library of Congress, begins with a refutation of masculine objections to women speaking in public. She opens the first volume with an article transcribed from an 1837 issue of the abolitionist paper The Liberator. The anonymous author, speaking for a Protestant church organization, proclaimed that public speaking would make a woman's character "unnatural.” Anthony's riposte was her teaching license, pasted in below: Wasn't teaching another form of public speaking?

Anthony outlived her comrade Elizabeth Cady Stanton (another scrapbook maker) by four years. Anthony collected obituaries and articles about Stanton after her 1902 death. Stanton's death had prompted the popular magazine Collier's Weekly to ask Anthony for two articles summing up their work. Perhaps it was because Collier's attention to women's rights issues had previously been slight that Anthony noted next to the pasted-in clipping that the article was "called out by Mrs. Stanton's death!!" 

Like many scrapbookers, Anthony didn't buy expensive blank books, but reused old ones—in this case an old ledger. The lines from it peep out at the bottom of the page.

Anthony Scrapbook 1

Library of Congress. Image courtesy Ellen Gruber Garvey.

Scrapbook2Final

Library of Congress. Image courtesy Ellen Gruber Garvey.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.