Legendary civil rights activist and suffragette Susan B. Anthony is currently enjoying a posthumous 15 minutes of fame because of her appropriation by the anti-abortion movement as a feminist who was pro-life.
There are a at least a couple of problems with this, one less obvious and the other glaringly so.
Less obvious is that even when you consider Anthony's words and deeds in the context of the second half of the 19th century, it is clear that she was not pro-life. Glaringly obvious is the rank hypocrisy of anti-feminists like Sarah Palin in buddying up to Anthony for the purposes of advancing their own agendas.
The peripatetic Palin, addressing the Susan B. Anthony Society last week, declared in a speech promoting conservative woman political candidates that Anthony's opposition to abortion rights was rooted in our "feminist foremothers." No one asked for sources, of course, and had they done so they would have found none to bolster Palin's contention, let alone the views of the society, which calls itself "the nerve center of the pro-life movement."
Ann Gordon and Lynn Sherr are Anthony scholars and between them have read every word of every thing Anthony said and wrote over a career that included 75 to 100 speeches a year over a 45-year period.
Their conclusion: Anthony did not speak to abortion as an issue or otherwise and spent no time on the politics of abortion. It simply was of no interest to her despite living in a society -- coming from a family, as well -- where women aborted unwanted pregnancies.
Palin, of course, has never let the facts get in the way of a chance to make $50,000 a prattle, but after tip-toeing around the "F-Word" for a couple of years finally has embraced feminism. Not feminism as you and I know it, but a feminism bent so far out of shape that it makes a pretzel look rectangular.
The quitter from Wasilla fell back on one of her Alaska-ready analogies in arguing that women don't have to oppose unfettered access to assault rifles nor approve eco-friendly initiatives to be feminists. In other words, you can be a prototypical Red State mom who knows her place (a few paces behind her husband) and still be a feminist.
"The mama grizzlies, they rise up," Palin speechified, explaining that such women "can give their child life, in addition to pursuing career and education and avocations. Society wants to tell these young women otherwise. These feminist groups want to tell these women that, 'No, you're not capable of doing both.' "
The sound that you hear is Susan B. spinning in her grave.