Putting Susan B. Anthony on a Pedal-stal

February is the cruelest month when it comes to honoring our nation’s heroes.  We used to recognize Honest Abe on his February 12 birthday and our beloved first President on February 22 – not one but two days off school!  Now it’s President’s Day only, and even that is more about sales than patriotism.  Thirty yeas ago we  had the wisdom to add Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the pantheon of our nation’s leaders;  still even he is eclipsed this year by the second inauguration of President Obama, moved to Monday because the traditional January 20 fell on a Sunday.

Still, the one I’m really concerned about is the fact that Susan B. Anthony slips through the cracks of the crowded February calendar.  Valentine’s Day, which honors little but undying love and the greeting card industry, casts its shadow on Susan B. Anthony’s birthday which fades into oblivion on the following day.  This first rate suffragette, born February 15, 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts, deserves better.

Fierce proponent of the women’s right to vote Anthony didn’t just march, she was arrested for the cause.  In the presidential election of 1872 she cast an illegal vote for which she was fined $100 (which she staunchly refused to pay).   She defended herself and women’s right to vote with her historic declaration ”On Women’s Right to Vote” in which she probed the question Are women persons?  That was 140 years ago and a half century before passage of the 19th Amendment.

Anthony was an ardent abolitionist, in her earlier days, a member of the women’s temperance movement and a tireless proponent of education reform.  Clearly, all of this has not been enough to elevate her birthday or the Susan B. Anthony coin to national prominence.

So I’ve been thinking of another angle.  In this day cyclists need a new role model, one who is without tarnish or steroids.  One who represents the environmental, health and egalitarian benefits of cycling.

Susan B. Anthony is the obvious, worthy and peerless successor to the cyclist throne.

The forgotten fact is that she earned the title fair and square over a century ago. Lost in the annals of women’s history, not to mention the history of bicycling,  is Anthony’s clarion call to celebrate the symbiotic relationship between cycling and feminism.  In 1896, when bicycling was just catching on in the U.S., Anthony opined that

the bicycle has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world….It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.  The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.

Widely self-acknowledged as a mecca for year-round cycling and enlightened feminism, the Twin Cities should take the lead in promoting Susan B. Anthony as the Patron Saint of Peddling.

At Neighbors, Inc. we’re celebrating with the First Annual Susan B. Anthony Sale – All Women’s Clothing 50% Off February 14-16 at the Clothes Closet, 222 Grand Avenue in Beautiful South St. Paul.  Walk, bike, bus or ski for bargains and the birth of a tradition!

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