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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Did You Know Series (16): Susan B. Anthony (15.02.1820 – 13.03.1906), A prominent Women’s Rights Activist featured on a US dollar coin, portraying/honouring a real woman for the first time ever : (issued in 1979- 1981 and, again, in 1999):

Did You Know Series (16): Susan B. Anthony (15.02.1820 – 13.03.1906), A prominent Women’s Rights Activist featured on a  US dollar coin, portraying/honouring  a real woman for the first time ever : (issued in 1979- 1981 and, again, in 1999):

 Susan B. Anthony (SBA) - A Profile:

A profile of Susan B. anthony, taken from "An outline of American History", received by my father (Late) Dr. J.N. Prasad from the United States Information Service in December 1983, which is presently in my personal library.
-      Susan Brownell Anthony was a prominent American civil rights leader in the 19th century.
-      Born of Quaker parents on 15.02.1820, she took active part in the 1837 in the New York anti-slavery movement.

-      In 1847, she became the secretary for the “Daughters of Temperance”, a forum she used to raise a voice against alcohol abuse, which pushed her into prominence as an activist.

-      By 1850, she decided to devote her entire life to fighting for women’s rights. She teamed up with Elizabeth Cady Stanton travelling across USA and Europe giving speeches and attempting to persuade the Government that society should treat men and women equally.

-      In 1852, she gave powerful speeches at the Third Annual National Women’s Rights Convention held in Syracuse, New York which made her a very recognizable advocate of Women’s rights.

-      By 1956, she attempted to unify the African-American and Women’s Rights movements when she joined the “American Anti-Slavery Society”.

-      In 1868, she published a Women’s Rights weekly journal “The Revolution” from New York City. It had, as its motto, “The true Republic – men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less”. The journal promoted women’s and African – American’s right to suffrage and discussed issues like – equal pay for equal work, more liberal divorce laws and the Church’s position on women’s issues.  

-      Anthony even got President Johnson to subscribe to the Journal, so that the top man in the USA would be aware of the raging Women’s Rights issues. To set up the magazine Anthony took a debt of $10000, which she repaid within six years from her lecture fees. The Journal was taken over by new owners promising to match Anthony’s zeal for women’s rights in their articles, but they could not sustain it and the Journal went out of publication in 1872.

-      In 1869, the “American Equal Rights Association (AERA)” which had originally fought for African – American and Women’s rights, decided to support the “15th Amendment to the Constitution” granting suffrage to black men but not to women. This move alienated  Anthony, who decided to, henceforth, concentrate only on women’s rights. She, alongwith Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the “National Woman Suffrage Association” (NWSA) and, in 1890, it merged with the “American Women Suffrage Association” (AWSA) creating a larger Organization fighting for Women’s Rights, the “National American Woman Suffrage Association” (NAWSA). She travelled extensively across the USA and Europe and delivered 75 to 100 speeches every year.

-      In 1872, Anthony voted for the Presidential election (which was entirely a male-dominated affair), but was detained sometime later and tried before the Supreme Court.  It seems that the Judge refused to allow Anthony to testify on her own behalf, and even allowed statements given by her at the time of her arrest to be allowed as testimony, explicitly ordered the jury to return a guilty verdict, refused to poll the jury afterwards and read an opinion he had written before the trial had even started.

-      Susan, in protest against the unfair trial, refused to pay the fine imposed by the Judge, stating that her only obligation was to settle the debt of $10000 incurred for publishing her Journal “The Revolution” and not the unjust imposition of the fine upon her.  She never paid the fine and a “red-faced” U.S. Government took no collection action against her.

Her Death and Legacy:

-      She passed away on 13.03.1906 at the age of 86.

-      She was one of the strongest advocates for getting women’s rights acknowledged and instituted in the American Constitution. She always believed that change will come and women will be given equal rights. On equal voting rights, abolition of slavery and other women’s rights she was convinced that one day these would come even though there was a long and discouraging struggle ahead.

-      Fourteen years after her passing away, in 1920, as a result of relentless campaigning by Women’s Rights Groups she had helped set up, women’s right to vote was passed as Law through the “Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution”.

-      “Susan B. Anthony Day” is celebrated as a holiday to commemorate her birth (and the Women’s Suffrage movement in the USA) on 15th February since 1920 (the year of her Birth Centenary), when all the States of the USA  ratified the “Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution” giving women the right to vote.

-      In the States of Wisconsin and Florida “SBA Day” is a State holiday. In the State of Virginia it is celebrated on Election Day on even years. Strong resistance from persons/groups who were not supporting the feminist movement has made it difficult to celebrate the holiday at the National level.

 Some Facts about the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) dollar:

-       Susan B. Anthony (SBA) figured on the obverse of a dollar coin was minted in the USA from 1979 to 1981 Philadelphia (“P” mint mark), Denver (“D” mint mark) and San Francisco (“S” mint mark – Proof sets) and, then again, in 1999 at Philadelphia and Denver mints, after the longest gap for the same design of a circulating coin in American history.

-      She was the first actual woman to be honoured on a US dollar coin, instead of the usual conceptual/allegorical female portrayal of Lady “Liberty” on US coins.

-      The Susan B. Anthony dollar symbolically depicted that women were now ready to take up any assignment/profession on an equal footing with men and given the opportunity could excel themselves in any challenge.

-      The original design was planned to be a hendecagonal one (or an 11-sided curve of constant width, but vending machine technology available was not equipped to handle an irregular –shaped coin.

-      It was argued that extensive retooling of the coin-vending machines to accommodate such a design would be required and, that, would be very cost-ineffective. Accordingly, the round edge was retained and the hendecahedron design was taken to the periphery of the coin. This made the coin look more like a quarter, than a dollar.

-      Because the coin looked and felt like a quarter, it did not circulate very well, so much so, that, in 1980, it was minted in a far lesser quantity because of its unpopularity, despite a slogan “Carry three for Susan B.” to enhance the coin’s popularity.

-      The coin is referred by numismatists as the “Susan B.” or simply “Susie”. It is also called the “Carter dollar” (because its minting was cleared during President Carter’s administration) or the “Anthony quarter”, in disparaging terms.

-      At this stage, the Mints did not have the legal Authority to change the design of the coin.

-       Also, it would appear that the US Mints/Coin Design Approval Committee did not put their “hearts” into bringing out the Susan B. dollar with the same “enthusiasm” as that of other dollars figuring Presidents etc.i.e. portraying a kind of “Men only” club “discriminating” against the shape and size of the coin honouring the “Suffragist” activist.

-      After the release of the Sacagawea dollar in 2000, the two coins circulate together, although the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005 proposed to take out all the remaining SBA coins out of circulation, but lacked the “courage” to be forceful about it, fearing a Women’s backlash.

Specifications of the Coin:

-      The years of minting were 1979-1981 and 1999. The SBA dollar is USA’s shortest lived coins and qualifies for being one of the most unpopular coin issues ever.

Size/Diameter: The coin measures 26.5 mm or 1.04 inches. (It can easily be mistaken for a US Quarter, because of its deceptively small size/thickness and similar colour. Users often gave this coin in payment, thinking that it was a quarter, which made the “Anthony dollar”, one of the most unpopular coins ever minted in USA history).

Weight: The coin weighs 8.1 gms. or 260 troy oz.

Thickness: 2.0 mm or 0.079 inches.

Shape: Round with a hendecagonal (11-sided) peripheral border.

Edge: Reeded.

Composition: Cupro-nickel (Copper: 91.66%; Nickel 8.33%).

The coin:

The obverse of the coin shows the profile of Susan B. Anthony, facing left. The designer of this coin is Frank Gasparro whose initials appear just below the bust of Ms. Anthony on the left side. In the case of this coin the initials “FG” have become slightly smudged, perhaps worn out with use. The mint mark of the Philadelphia or Denver mint on this coin appears just above the right shoulder which has also become smudged into a dot on this coin."Liberty" is mentioned on upper periphery of the coin and the year of issue "1979" on the lower periphery. The motto "In God we Trust" appears on the right hand side of the coin.
13 Stars are engraved on the inner periphery revealing the “enduring” USA fascination to portray/represent only the first 13 States which had joined the Federation before American Independence (a kind of a constant “racist/partiality” reminder to the other States which now form the USA, but do not figure/are not represented “all together” on the coin images).
It is time that the US Treasury moves on from these “traditional images” and also brings out all circulating coin editions representing all the States, all together (like in the American Eagle Commemorative gold coins, meant only for Collectors!!).

The reverse of the coin shows an eagle is shown clutching a laurel in its talon. The talons on the Eagle are an ordinary strike and not the “full talon” variety. Below the craters on the moon image is mentioned “one dollar”. Over the Eagle’s outstretched right wing is shown a distant Earth reveals the United States of America. “E. Pluribus Unum” (One among many) the slogan found on all US coins figures just above the Earth image and below the inscription “United States of America”.  This face of the coin, also, exhibits the 13 Stars, representing the first 13 States which joined the American Federation.
-      The Eagle is about to    land on the Moon’s surface, symbolically depicting the First Landing of mankind on the Moon through the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, showing the Earth in the background. This design was adapted from the Apollo 11 insignia. A closer look at the Earth in the background reveals the United States of America, symbolically depicting the landing of the “Eagle” moon landing craft, and indicating that the moon-landing was specifically an American achievement. 
  This reverse design was also engraved on the “Eisenhower dollar” issued earlier.

-      The large number of coins minted have rendered the coin as being easily collectible, particularly, as the coin is still in circulation, although there have been legislative attempts to take it out of circulation. Whenever that happens, the coin will have an even more “collector value”.

SBA coin varieties:

-      There are 18 different Susan B. Anthony dollars ever issued, including proof and other varieties. SBA dollars were not issued in any precious metals.

-      Several varieties of the coin were issued by various mints. Some variations were as under:

a)   The earlier 1979, Philadelphia Mint issues have a “near date” or a “wider rim” and are slightly more difficult to come by, than the later “far date” or narrow rim” issues.

b)   Similarly, in the Proof sets issued by the San Francisco mint, the variations are the 1979–S Type 1 and Type II mint marks and the 1981–S Type I and Type II mint marks. In both instances, the “S” mint mark which was blurry at first was replaced by a clearer “S” mint mark in later issues.

c)   The “full talon” is the variety which is sought after by numismatists. These coins have a superior strike as the talons of the Eagle on the reverse face are shown as fully separated and rounded, sometimes even showing the folds of the skin on the claws.

1 comment:

  1. Raka Prasad has commemted on 22.04.13:
    "The coin though is very pretty".