On Tuesday, August 18th, 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification, Trump announced that he was pardoning Susan B Anthony for voting before it was legal for women to do so. But, would Anthony want to be pardoned?
Deborah Hughes, President and CEO at the National Susan B Anthony Museum, thinks not. She pointed out that Anthony never paid the fine she was charged as a penalty for voting because she found the entire trial outrageously dehumanizing. As a woman, Anthony was not allowed to speak in her own defense. She was denied a trial by jury, and instead, was pronounced guilty by the judge. Validating these systematic injustices in the case proceedings undermines Anthony's entire point.
Anthony cast a ballot in Rochester, New York, in the 1872 election to protest women being denied the right to vote, as women were being governed and taxed without having adequate representation in the halls of power. As a result, she was arrested and fined one hundred dollars for participating, which she refused to pay. Her arrest contributed to national attention and protests for women's suffrage.
Anthony's conviction is a mark of her fighting against an unjust system. Her arrest was an act of protest. Pardoning her implies that she did something wrong when, in reality, Anthony took action into her own hands to correct a systemic deficiency. Trump's pardon did not acknowledge that Anthony should never have been arrested in the first place. In fact, he verbally speculated why it took so long to pardon Anthony. Such handling completely missed the point of Anthony's protest and the legacy she left behind.
Our voting system is still fraught with laws that restrict the voices of many people in the United States. If the president intends to honor Anthony's legacy, it can be in acknowledging the flawed system that incriminated Anthony in the first place. She fought to increase voter rights. Increasing accessibility to voting through mail-in ballots during this pandemic and challenging laws restricting citizens from voting in 2020 are endeavors Anthony would be proud of.