The Abbotts Play Host to Susan B. Anthony

Nebraska lawyer Othman Abbott and his wife, early settlers in Grand Island, shared an interest in women’s rights. In his Recollections of a Pioneer Lawyer, published by the Nebraska State Historical Society in 1929, Abbott recalled: “I have already spoken of the fact that Mrs. Abbott had been brought up by her mother, her Aunt Lydia, and her Uncle Allen Gardner to be one of the early advocates of ‘women’s rights.’ She and I had sent back and forth before our marriage John Stuart Mill’s Subjection of Women and one of our daughters still preserves the copy with our marginal notes in it. We were both very hopeful when the Legislature of Nebraska finally submitted a woman suffrage amendment to the state Constitution in 1882. Mrs. Abbott became one of the officers of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage society, and we both worked in the local campaign.

“Miss [Susan B.] Anthony travelled out to Nebraska herself that year and we were happy when she stayed at our house and spoke at a public meeting in Grand Island. It was a very splendid meeting for those days and Miss Anthony herself seemed pleased with it. I ought to chronicle one remark she made after she had shaken hands with the last person in the audience who lingered to meet her or talk with her. Mrs. Abbott said as we walked away that it must be very hard to have to shake hands with so many people. Miss Anthony replied as quick as a flash, ‘Oh, my dear, if you could only know how much easier it is today to shake hands with people than it was in the old days when no one wanted to shake hands with me.’

“Miss Anthony also helped the cause greatly by sending us a very fine German woman speaker, Mrs. Clara Neyman [Newman].She came, I believe, from Brooklyn, New York, and she did good work among those who could only be reached in the German language. Mrs. Neyman also stayed at our house, and we enjoyed her visit also. I ought to add that our house was rather crowded then and while Mrs. Neyman was there and one night while Miss Anthony was there the only way we could manage was to have our little daughter Edith, six years old, used as a bed fellow. She was very proud of it, particularly of sleeping with Miss Anthony.”

Unfortunately, the amendment failed. Had Nebraska accepted it, the state would have been the first to give women the vote.

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