On This Day in History: November 5

Amanda Prichard, Editor-in-Chief

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November 5, 1812. Small groups of women across America, including Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth, attempted to or did vote illegally in the presidential election.

At the time, no women had the right to vote and while black men technically had that right, everything from literacy test to voting fees to threats of violence were used to keep them from voting. The women went to register to vote on the first of November and anywhere from three to 15 of them were actually accepted, but many credible sources remain conflicted on the exact number.

Truth showed up at a polling booth in Grand Rapids, Michigan to vote, but was turned away. Many of the women who had been able to register were also turned away or had their ballots thrown out after voting. Anthony was able to get her ballot accepted, but two weeks later she was arrested. She was eventually put on trial and fined $100 for voting illegally, which is equal to over $2,000 today.

Anthony stood in front of the courtroom during her trial and said to the judge, “I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.” She told him that she was already in debt running a newspaper to educated women and every penny she earned would continue to go to the paper because it was an honest cause, but she would never pay the fine.
Her words rang true when she died in 1906 without paying.