President Trump made history Tuesday by announcing a pardon for the late women’s suffrage champion Susan B. Anthony, clearing her name of illegal voting to mark the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote.
Anthony was convicted of voting illegally in 1872 as part of the women’s suffrage movement.
The posthumous pardon extended Mr. Trump’s streak of using Oval Office power to right discrimination wrongs in America’s past. He also issued a posthumous pardon in 2018 for Jack Johnson, a Black boxing champion who was convicted in 1913 of traveling with a White woman.
Mr. Trump praised Anthony as he signed a proclamation honoring the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which made it illegal for federal or state governments to deny a citizen the right to vote based on sex.
First lady Melania Trump and several female conservative activists surrounded the president as he honored Anthony, who spent roughly 50 years fighting for women’s suffrage.
However, scholars of women’s studies said the pardon is meaningless because Anthony never wanted one.
“As far as she was concerned — and as far as all suffragists were concerned — by placing ballots in a ballot box she was acting on her rights as a citizen. She did nothing wrong,” said Virginia Sapiro, a political science professor at Boston University.
Ann Gordon, a research professor at Rutgers University, said Anthony knew how to obtain a pardon and did so for the men who helped her vote.
“She could have done it herself,” Ms. Gordon said, adding that Anthony sought remission of the fine from Congress.
A pardon acknowledges she acted illegally, while the remission of the fine would have said the judge was wrong to have punished her for voting.
“There’s a big difference in what she was asking for,” Ms. Gordon noted.
Mr. Trump said women had come far since 1920 with nearly 70 million women casting ballots in elections, more than 11 million women owning businesses and 131 women serving in Congress.
“Women dominate the United States. I think we can say that very strongly,” Mr. Trump said.
He also noted that, under his leadership, women’s unemployment before the COVID-19 pandemic was at its lowest level in 65 years.
“We are coming back very strongly. We are going to see those numbers again very soon,” he said.