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Item: BSL - 1900-Anthony



Typed Letter Signed (TLS) by Susan B. Anthony

Autograph Signature

Historical Note

This is a wonderful letter encompassing the intersection of several prominent forces at play in the Women's Rights Movement in the 19th century. Susan B. Anthony here signs a letter to Marilla Ricker, arguably two of the foremost champions of Women's Rights. What is even more interesting is that the nexus of this interchange is not only their mutual time at the Washington Convention, but an "Ingersoll spoon". While this might appear to be a chance social gift reference, the meaning is really quite deeper. Colonel Robert Ingersoll was one of the leading orators of the second half of the century propounding the rights of women and free thinkers. A Washington attorney, he gave Ricker her first job as a licensed attorney in the notorious Star Route case, thus ratifying her credentials as a woman attorney. See below for more detailed biographies on each of these amazing individuals as well as an image the "Ingersoll spoon".

Biographical Notes

Susan Brownell Anthony (1820 – 1906)


Susan Brownell Anthony was a pioneer leader of the cause of woman suffrage, and her energy was tireless in working for what she considered to be the best interests of womankind. At home and abroad she had innumerable friends, not only among those who sympathized with her views, but among those who held opinions radically opposed to her. She was at the time of her death the Honorary President of the National Woman Suffrage Association, the society which she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized in 1869. Anthony was born at South Adams, Mass., on Feb. 15, 1820. Daniel Anthony, her father, a liberal Quaker, was a cotton manufacturer. She was first instructed by teachers at home and then sent afterwards to finish her education at a Friends' boarding school in Philadelphia.

Anthony had become impressed with the idea that women were suffering great wrongs, and when she abandoned school teaching, having saved only about $300, she determined to enter the lecture field. In 1851 she called a temperance convention in Albany, admittance to a previous convention having been refused to her because it was not the custom to admit women. The Women's New York State Temperance Society was organized the following year. Through Miss Anthony's exertions and those of Elizabeth Cady Stanton women soon came to be admitted to educational and other conventions, with the right to speak, vote, and act upon committees.

Miss Anthony's active participation in the movement for woman suffrage started as early as 1854 when she arranged conventions throughout New York and annually bombarded the Legislature with messages and appeals. She was active in obtaining the passage of the act of the New York Legislature in 1860 giving to married women the possession of their earnings and the guardianship of their children. During the Civil War she was devoted to the Women's Loyal League, which petitioned Congress in favor of the thirteenth amendment. She was also directly interested in the fourteenth amendment, sending a petition in favor of leaving out the word "male."

In company with Stanton and Lucy Stone, Anthony went to Kansas in 1867, and there obtained 9,000 votes in favor of woman suffrage. The following year, with the co-operation of Stanton, Parker Pillsbury, and George Francis Train, she began the publication in New York City of a weekly paper called The Revolutionist, devoted to the emancipation of women. In order to test the application of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments she cast ballots in the State and Congressional election in Rochester in 1872. She was indicted and ordered to pay a fine, but the order was never enforced.

Anthony succeeded Mrs. Stanton as President of the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1892. This office she held until February, 1899, her farewell address being delivered at a meeting of the association in Washington. For a number of years she averaged 100 lectures a year. She engaged in eight different State campaigns for a Constitutional amendment enfranchising women, and hearings before committees of practically every Congress since 1869 were granted to her. Susan B. Anthony died in Rochester, New York, in her house on Madison St., on March 13, 1906, and is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery. [includes excerpts from her New York Times Obituary]

Biographical Notes

Marilla M. Ricker (1840-1920)

Trail-blazing Attorney, Abolitionist, Free Thinker, Humanitarian and Suffragist

Marilla Ricker was born 18 March 1840 in New Durham, New Hampshire. Her father, Jonathan Young, reportedly related to Mormon prophet Brigham Young, was a freethinker and proponent of women's rights who took his daughter to courtrooms and town meetings. She was educated in public schools and the Colby Academy in New London, New Hampshire. In 1863 she married John Ricker, Esq. of Madbury but was widowed by his death in 1868. After some time traveling in Europe she moved to Washington, D.C. where she read law with Albert Gallatin Riddle and Arthur Williams. Ricker was admitted to the bar of the District in May, 1882, after four years study in a law office, placing first in the bar examination. Her first public courtroom appearance was as assistant counsel to Robert G. Ingersoll in the Star Route mail fraud cases. An ardent Ingersoll fan, Ricker would later offer to buy the full 12-volume Dresden Edition of the Works of Ingersoll for any New Hampshire library that would accept them. Her practice, however, was primarily in criminal litigation and she became known as the "prisoner's friend," successfully challenging a district law that indefinitely confined poor criminals unable to pay fees.

In 1870 Ricker cast a ballot in Ward 3 at Dover, New Hampshire and had the distinction of being one of the first U.S. woman to attempt to vote under a constitutional right, perhaps the first using the argument that women were "electors" under the Fourteenth Amendment. Her vote was annulled. In 1890, Marilla won the right of women to practice law in New Hampshire, becoming the first woman attorney in that state, her case before the New Hampshire Supreme Court being co-argued by Lelia Robinson, the woman who had gained women the right to be admitted to the bar of Massachusetts. The New Hampshire Women's Bar Association each year awards its Outstanding Woman Attorney the Marilla Ricker Prize. Ricker was also the first woman appointed Commissioner and Examiner in Chancery in the District of Columbia in 1884 and the first woman to apply for a foreign ambassadorship in 1897. This too was denied.

In 1879 Belva A. Lockwood prevailed upon Congress to adopt an “Act to relieve certain legal disabilities of women” and which authorized women to be admitted to practice before the U. S. Supreme Court. Lockwood was subsequently admitted as the first woman of the Supreme Court bar. The early women pioneers in the Supreme Court knew and worked with one another, often active in suffrage movements as well as professional and voluntary associations. It was Emma M. Gillett, the seventh woman admitted to the Supreme Court who moved the admission of Marilla M. Ricker to become a woman member of the Court bar. On May I, 1891, she was the ninth woman admitted to practise before the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1910 she was the first woman to run for governor of New Hampshire; the Secretary of State, Edward Pearson, returned her application fee and refused to even put her name on the ballot claiming that “without the right to vote she could not run for office.” Marilla M. Ricker died on 12 November 1920 at the age of eighty. She did live to see some of her life ambitions fulfilled as the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was ratified three months before her death, and the 1920 election saw New Hampshire elect the first two women to the House of Representatives.

Ricker likely began her association with Susan B. Anthony when she attended the first National Woman’s Suffrage Association (NWSA) convention in 1869.

You are particularly recommended to read:, Marilla Ricker in the Struggle for Women's Rights, Stanford University 2002, LeeAnn Richey

Biographical Notes

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899)

One of the foremost orators and political speechmakers of late 19th century America

Ingersoll was born in Dresden, New York in 1833 where today there is a museum in his honor. While still quite young his family moved to Illinois. Ingersoll entered public life as a Peoria, Illinois, attorney. Following distinguished service in the Civil War, he served as the first Attorney General of Illinois. Politically, he allied with the Republicans, the party of Lincoln and in those days the voice of progressivism. Ingersoll' s electrifying speaking voice soon made him the most sought-after speechmaker on behalf of Republican candidates and causes. His legal career was also distinguished. He mounted a successful defense of two men falsely charged in the Star Route Scandal, perhaps the most controversial, politically-charged trial of the late 19th century. But it was his private speaking career that made him famous. Tour after tour, he crisscrossed the country and spoke before packed houses on topics ranging from Shakespeare to Reconstruction, from science to religion. In an age when oratory was the dominant form of public entertainment, Ingersoll was the unchallenged king of American orators. Ingersoll was the friend of Presidents, literary giants like Mark Twain, captains of industry like Andrew Carnegie, and leading figures in the arts. He was also beloved of reformers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton. He was an early popularizer of Charles Darwin and a tireless advocate of science and reason. More, he argued for the rights of women and African-Americans.

In 1876 he gave a speech before the Republican National Convention in Cincinnati, nominating James G. Blaine for the presidency. The party nominated Rutherford B. Hayes instead, but Ingersoll' s nominating speech - known ever after as the "Plumed Knight" speech - was considered for decades afterward the classic political speech of the age. Candidates sought Ingersoll' s oratorical services eagerly. He campaigned for every Republican Presidential candidate but one, from Grant to McKinley. Yet because of his outspoken and controversial views, Ingersoll was never appointed to public office by any of the politicians whose election he helped to secure.

Ingersoll' s law practice added to his fame. He defended Thomas J. Brady and Stephen W. Dorsey in the famous Star Route Trial. This was the same trial in which he gave Marilla Ricker her first court appearance as a woman attorney. The Star Route affair, which concerned the mis-assignment of rural postal routes, was the Watergate scandal of its day. The nation watched Ingersoll deftly weave what would become the longest trial defense in American history. After months of testimony, Ingersoll secured acquittals for his clients. Between 1865 and 1899 Ingersoll crisscrossed the country on more than a dozen speaking tours. He would pack the largest theaters of the day at the then-substantial admission of $1 apiece. Ingersoll had numerous three- to four-hour lectures committed to memory. No human being had been seen and heard by more Americans - or would be until the advent of motion pictures, radio, and television. His subjects ranged from Shakespeare and Burns to religion, from political and moral issues to the lives of famous patriots and scientists. Among his admirers were president James Garfield, poet Walt Whitman, General Ulysses S. Grant, industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, inventor Thomas Edison, and preacher Henry Ward Beecher. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) was especially impressed by Ingersoll. After hearing Ingersoll speak, he wrote his wife Olivia Langdon Clemens: "What an organ is human speech when it is employed by a master!"

Ingersoll died of heart failure on July 21, 1899 at Walston, his son-in-law's palatial home in Dobbs Ferry-on-Hudson, New York. He was 65 years old. Ingersoll was buried with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, where his large grave marker can still be seen. Shortly after Ingersoll' s death, his complete works were collected and published by his brother-in-law Clinton P. Farrell. The lavish 12-volume set was known as the "Dresden Edition," named for the town of Ingersoll' s birth. This sterling silver miniature spoon bears front and rear likenesses of Ingersoll and includes imagery symbolizing reason and free thought as blazing torches. Made in 1892 by Illinois jeweler, free thought activist, and Ingersoll admirer Otto Wettstein.  This particular original Wettstein spoon resides at the Ingersoll museum in his old homestead in Dresden, New York. It was later reproduced by Gorham silversmiths some copies of which are still extant.

Document Specifications:  The document is on Rival Bond watermarked wove paper and measures 8" wide x 6" tall (223mm x 150mm). Typed document in black ink and signed by "Susan B. Anthony" in ink. There are several folds and a surface disturbance along the bottom margin possibly from an earlier applied tape. Signed Anthony documents are scarce and one such as this linking major figures within the Women's Rights Movement are extremely rare in the marketplace.

Offered by Berryhill & Sturgeon, Ltd.

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End of Item: BSL - 1900-Anthony

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