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Susan B. Anthony Sends Letter to Kansas Suffragist Leader
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Susan B. Anthony addresses an envelope from the National Woman Suffrage Association headquarters in Philadelphia to prominent Kansas suffragist Mary Tenney Gray. The pointed questions on this envelope urged women’s claims to suffrage as an essential part of their being citizens of the Republic. On July 4, 1876, Susan B. Anthony read The Declaration for the Rights of Women from a podium in front of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to a cheering crowd.

SUSAN B. ANTHONY. National Woman Suffrage Association Centennial Headquarters envelope, to “Mrs Judge Gray / Leavenworth / Kan,” with “Centennial Questions,” 1876. Philadelphia: National Woman Suffrage Association. 1 p., 5⅞ x 3⅜ in.

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1776.               CENTENNIAL QUESTIONS.            1876.

Are not women, citizens of this Republic,—part of the people?

Why then, should women more than men, be governed without their consent?

Why then, should women more than men, be taxed without representation?

By what right then, do men declare themselves invested with power to legislate for women in all cases whatsoever?

Historical Background

The Centennial International Exhibition was the first official World’s Fair in the United States and was held in Philadelphia from May 10 to November 10, 1876, to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. However, the issue of women’s suffrage was largely ignored in the preparations for celebrating the centennial of the nation. In response, the National Woman Suffrage Association opened “Centennial Headquarters” in Philadelphia to draw attention to the fact that women were still “denied the exercise of their natural right of self-government.”

In 1861, the first Kansas state legislature gave women the right to vote in school elections. Six years later, the legislature submitted a constitutional amendment to the electorate to enfranchise white women, making Kansas the first state to consider women’s suffrage, but the amendment is defeated. In 1887, Kansas granted women the right to vote in municipal elections. In 1911, the Kansas legislature approved a women’s suffrage amendment, and on November 5, 1912, Kansas voters approved the amendment, making Kansas the eighth state to grant full suffrage to women.

Mary Tenney Gray (1833-1904) was born in Pennsylvania, and received her education partly in her father’s theological library. She graduated from Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Seminary in 1853. From 1854 to 1858, she was a preceptress at New York’s Binghamton Academy. In 1859, she married Judge Barzillai Gray (1824-1919) and moved to a town he founded, Wyandotte, Kansas Territory. She was one of three women who attended the Wyandotte constitutional convention to attempt to have women’s suffrage included in the new Kansas state constitution. Also in 1859, her husband was appointed judge of probate in Leavenworth, Kansas, and in 1868 was appointed judge of the criminal court. In 1876, they moved to Topeka, where he became private secretary to George T. Anthony, governor from 1877 to 1879. Mary was dubbed the “Mother of the Woman’s Culture Club Movement in Kansas.” A prolific writer, she contributed to the New York Teacher, the Leavenworth Home Record, and the Kansas Farmer. She was a prominent leader of Kansas’ participation in the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876.