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Anna W. Spencer

(1799-1884) ~ Inducted 2020

Anna’s life is somewhat of a mystery, but her accomplishments are significant in the history of social reform, especially that for women’s equality and suffrage. In 1852 she began the publication in Providence of the newspaper The Pioneer and Woman’s Advocate; the newspaper’s motto was “Liberty, Truth, Equality, Temperance.” Anna’s newspaper is significant since it advanced the cause of women’s rights in the early years of the woman suffrage movement, a movement which many consider having begun just four years earlier with the convening of the Seneca Lake Conference in 1848. In their History of the Woman Suffrage Movement compiled by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, American’s foremost suffragists, they noted with reference to Anna’s newspaper “It was the earliest paper established in the United States for the advocacy of Woman’s Rights.”

In her first issue of the newspaper Anna advanced her philosophy on women’s rights when she wrote: “The wrongs will continue until women demand their redress. Who better than herself can press that demand? They who have not the heart and the will to demand their own rights, have little cause to complain of their loss.” It was also in an early edition of her newspaper that we learn a little about Anna when an endorsement of her noted she was “of good standing in the community; the daughter of a widowed mother of whom she has the whole charge and who is a worthy member of the Society of Friends; that she has always been active and persevering in the new Reform of Woman’s Rights …”

Anna was also active in the early temperance movement having served as a Rhode Island delegate in 1853 to the Whole World’s Temperance Convention in New York City. She was also an author having written several patriotic broadside poems in the aftermath of the Civil War and in 1880 she wrote The Pen and the Sword which was a philosophical dialogue between a penman and a swordsman on the use of physical force in seeking social change.


Russell J. DeSimone


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