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To understand this critical and historical speech given by Susan B. Anthony, one can find the meaning to be explicitly clear after analyzing its setting, the time, and the place. The speech carried with it the numerous weight of historical events which led to Anthony giving this powerful speech on Women’s Suffrage. During the era of the 1800s, women had no right to vote nor could they participate in other civic activities such as testifying in a Court of Law, women were denied so many rights that were given to men, by men. Anthony was a prominent leader in the women’s rights movement leader because it was a time when women were advocating for their rights and other movements were happening, She was courageous enough to stand up for what she believed in, even if most of the people around her did not share the same values, or would even scorn her for voicing her belief. She expressed said courage during the abolition movement when slavery was legal and accepted yet she knew that it needed to be changed for the better. After her arrest in 1872 for the illegal ballot voting, Susan became more aggressive in her fight for women’s suffrage. Within her speech, “On Women’s Right To Vote,” Susan invoked the United States Constitution’s Preamble that pointed out the power of the masses rather than segregation based on gender. According to the Constitutional Preamble, it addresses ‘We, the people” and not “We, the Male citizens.” In her arguments, Susan refers to the countries that fail to protect the rights of women and prevented women to vote as oligarchies.
During her Court trial, Susan could not testify on her behalf since culturally women weren’t allowed to give testimonies because women’s testimonies weren’t considered competent and sound. As a result, she had to hire a male lawyer who presented her arguments. However, she was convicted of violating federal law for casting an illegal vote.
The speech had a huge impact historically and on the people who heard or read it, and has since had a significant influence on the development and significance of the identity of women as equals and women’s suffrage being recognized nationally. Not just her speech, but her trial helped this movement spread nationwide since it showed the stark contrast between men and women, and how unfairly they were treated and persecuted. This was a very big and much needed step towards the change of women’s suffrage just being within a localized group and people, to being something talked about and protested nationwide. Despite Anthony being forbidden from filing a lawsuit for the voting rights before the Supreme Court about her court case, Anthony paved the way towards the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution: women’s right to vote. Under the leadership and guidance of Anthony, the NWSA drafted the first version of the 19th Amendment in 1878 and tried lobbying the preposition to be made into an amendment. Although they made a great effort, Congress had denied making a new amendment and sent them back home, but they did not give up. The efforts made lit a fire in all their hearts, which would only burn stronger until they got what they wished and fought all these years for, not even death could stop this powerful movement. Then in 1920, The United States of America ratified the proposal for the 19th Amendment of the Constitution which provided the right for all female United States citizens to exercise their freedom to vote and to participate in democratic elections 1920, just 14 years after Susan B Anthony’s death.
The speech ‘On Women’s Right to Vote’ was compelling because she used pathos, ethos, and logos to ensure the persuasiveness of the writing. An example of an appeal to logic in this speech would be ‘It will be my task tonight to prove to you that with that vote, I not only did not commit an offense but merely exercised my citizenship rights, which are guaranteed to me and all citizens of the United States.’ As Anthony was using logic and reason to prove her point, she stated clearly that she did not do anything wrong and she was merely exercising her right as a citizen in the United States. An example of an appeal to pathos in this speech would be ‘The gifts of freedom are everlastingly withheld from ladies and their female successors.’ She is trying to subtly attack the men since she is stating that all the women in this country have been robbed of their rights and that if this goes on, even their descendants will be robbed and so on. An example of an appeal to ethos in this speech would be ‘I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote.’
It is almost as if she is dethroning the court, since she is stating how they wrongfully arrested her and denied her the ability to vote. She is putting into question the credibility of the court, while adding credibility to herself by speaking plainly yet proper and making valid points. Anthony’s incredible dissertation makes the audience feel enthusiastic towards her cause, and almost stunned by her reasoning.
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