On November 1, 1872, in an act of defiance against the election laws prohibiting women from voting, Susan B. Anthony, along with fifteen women from Rochester, New York’s eighth ward, registered to vote at the upcoming election.
Entries in the 1872 diary from the Maurice Leyden Collection provide insight into the events surrounding these actions. Maurice Leyden and his wife, Margaret, were friends of Susan B. Anthony and active supporters of the suffrage movement. In his November 1st entry Leyden writes, the “ladies went & were registered to day to & intend to vote if they can on Tuesday. – they are the first ladies that were ever registered in Rochester.” Margaret Leyden was among this group of women.
On November 5, 1872, the day of the election, Susan B. Anthony and the women descended upon the local polling place and voted (illegally). Several days later a poll watcher lodged a complaint against the women and they were arrested.
June entries from Leyden’s 1873 diary discuss the women’s arrest and the subsequent trial of Susan B. Anthony, who was found guilty of illegally voting and fined $100, which she never paid. The remaining women were also charged with illegally voting, but were never prosecuted.
While these women had not been the first women to vote in an election, Susan B. Anthony was the first to be tried in court for the crime of illegally voting. The attention received by the trial created an uproar among the suffragists, re-energizing the movement.
To learn more about the Maurice Leyden Collection, visit Special Collections to examine the diaries, or go to the online finding aid Maurice Leyden Collection
Special Collections is located on the second floor of the Glenn G. Bartle Library (off of the North Reading Room). Our hours are Monday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.