Susan B. Anthony Voting Trial Reenacted
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – In commemoration of Women’s Equality Day, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan, along with the Federal Bar Association, hosted a reenactment of the 1873 Susan B. Anthony criminal trial today at the Gerald R. Ford Federal Court Building in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In full period costume, Susan B. Anthony was played by Federal District Court Judge Janet T. Neff, and Federal Magistrate Hugh W. Brenneman, Jr. played the trial judge. Lawyers from the U.S. Attorney’s Office played the prosecutor, defense attorney, and witnesses. U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles appeared as Frederick Douglass, a supporter of Susan B. Anthony and women’s suffrage. The first fourteen men who came to attend the program as spectators were surprised to receive jury summons papers with instructions to sit as the all-male jury.
Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting in Rochester, New York, in the U.S. Presidential election on November 5, 1872. Her trial took place on June 17, 1873, in Canandaigua Courthouse, New York. The trial reenactment held today followed a historically accurate transcript of the actual criminal trial. At the trial’s conclusion, the judge instructed the jury to convict Susan B. Anthony, ordering, “Upon this evidence I suppose there is no question for the jury and that the jury should be directed to find a verdict of guilty.” Susan B. Anthony responded emphatically to the verdict, arguing, “In your ordered verdict of guilty, you have trampled underfoot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored.” The legal right for American women to vote was not obtained until 1920, after Susan B. Anthony’s death, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The program was developed as a project of the United States Attorney’s Office Special Emphasis Program Committee whose mission is to develop and conduct programs, including commemorative observances, which increase understanding within federal offices of the special issues that can affect employees who are minorities, women, U.S. military veterans, and persons with disabilities.