US President Donald Trump on Tuesday posthumously pardoned Susan B Anthony, a leader in the women’s suffrage movement, who was arrested for voting in 1872 in violation of laws permitting only men to vote.
Anthony is best known for her role in the movement to secure voting rights for women, but she was also a strong anti-slavery and voting rights pioneer.
Trump’s pardon, which he said he will issue later on Tuesday, comes 100 years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which ensured women the right to vote. It is also known as the Susan B Anthony Amendment.
Trump is facing a tough fight for re-election in November and has tried in recent weeks to appeal to women voters, especially those in the suburbs.
But during the White House event commemorating the event, Trump blasted former first lady Michelle Obama’s speech a night earlier at the Democratic National Convention saying it was “extremely divisive”.
“She was over her head, and frankly she should’ve made the speech live, which she didn’t do,” Trump said. “She taped it. It was taped a long time ago because she had the wrong deaths. She didn’t even mention the vice presidential candidate in the speech.”
Obama stated in her speech that more than 150,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, when the number is 20,000 higher.
“She gets these fawning reviews. If you gave a real review it wouldn’t be so fawning,” Trump added. “I thought it was a very divisive speech. Extremely divisive.”
The former first lady delivered the closing speech on the first night of the DNC, blistering Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and arguing he has shown he is incapable of handling the responsibilities of the presidency.
Anthony was arrested for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York. She was convicted in a widely publicised trial in 1873. Although she refused to pay the fine, the authorities declined to take further action.
The 19th Amendment says: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Congress passed it in 1919, and the amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920.
Visiting Anthony’s gravesite in Rochester on election day has become a popular ritual in recent years. Thousands turned out in 2016 for the presidential match-up between Trump and Hillary Clinton. In 2018, voters showed up by the dozens to put their “I Voted” stickers on her headstone.
But most in-person events, festivals, marches and exhibitions planned around the country to mark the anniversary, have been cancelled amid continued concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. Some events will be conducted virtually.
The pardon also comes amid an outcry over US Postal Service (USPS) disruptions that Democrats say endanger the voting rights of millions of Americans who would vote by mail in November amid the pandemic. Trump has denied asking for the mail to be delayed even as he levelled fresh criticism on mail-in voting.
Meanwhile, the USPS announced that it would honour the centennial anniversary with a new stamp titled, 19th Amendment: Women Vote.
According to the USPS, the stamp itself was inspired by historic photographs and features a stylised illustration of suffragists marching in a parade or other public demonstration. The clothes and banners display the official colours of the National Woman’s Party, purple, white and gold.
A virtual dedication ceremony is scheduled for August 22, USPS said and pre-orders for the new stamps can be made online.