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.


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.


Library of Congress. Image courtesy Ellen Gruber Garvey.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.