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Throughout the ages, many females have helped make changes that have helped
benefit woman. Many have been looked up to as martyrs for taking a stand in what they
believe in. Susan B. Anthony and the character Antigone from the Greek tragedy, The
Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles both were two courageous woman. During their time, they
defied the idea of women and helped them step forth and fight for equality. These two
women lived in a male dominant society, filled with sexism.
Antigone is widely thought of as a tragic hero and martyr. She was a young
princess who faced many hardships in her life. She was cursed with being the daughter
of Oedipus, the king that fulfilled his oracle of killing his father and marrying his mother
and caused a plague on Thebes. She later defies King Creon of his cruel judgment
forbidding the burial of her brother Polynieces who attempt to gain the crown from his
brother Eteocles. Antigone fights for her belief that her brother deserves a burial and
preaches the God s law. Against the pleas of her weak sister Ismene and her fianc
Haimon she stands up to the government. She seems to fit the part in light of the fact
that she is executed for doing what she feels is right. According to Hathom, she Takes
into consideration death and the reality that may be beyond death. Antigone did not
fear the authority and believed in the law of the God s.
Susan B. Anthony was a liberal Quaker and dedicated basic activist. She
opposed the use of liquor and advocated the immediate end to slavery. During the
American Civil War, she founded the Women s Loyal League to fight for liberation of the
slaves. After the end of Reconstruction she protested the violence inflicted on blacks
and was one of the few to urge full participation of blacks in the suffrage movement.
In 1851, her work for women s rights began. She concentrated on reforming New
York State laws discriminating against women. Anthony organized women all over the
state to campaign for legal reforms.
Anthony became convinced that women would not gain their rights or be effective
in promoting reforms until they had the right to vote. Nationwide suffrage became their
goal after the Civil War. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the National
Woman Suffrage Association to work for a constitutional amendment giving the women
that right. Although the newly freed slaves were granted the vote by the 15th
Amendment women were left excluded. Anthony defiantly registered and cast a ballot in
the 1872 election and was arrested. After being tried and convicted of violating the laws
and again defied the government by refusing to pay the fine.
Anthony and Stanton published the History of Women Suffrage (Volume 4) to
help women understand that it was there time to rise up and get an equal opportunity.
Although she did not live to see her dream fulfilled, women were finally granted the right
to vote in the 19th Amendment and she is deeply owed for her efforts.
Though these two individuals may seem different, the actions they take are
similar. Both women lived in times were women could not succeed and were treated like
slaves. They defied the roles of women of their time and refused to listen to male
authority. Anthony and Antigone fought the government and were punished for their
actions and protests.
Antigone grew up in an ancient Greek society where women where treated like
slaves. During the time of the Classical Greeks women s issues was a devastating
problem. Females were not classified as citizens. They held no property and were not
allowed to leave their homes unless under guard. In the play, Antigone had to sneak out
of the house to meet up with Ismene to discuss her plan to bury her brother. Their status
was equivalent to Greek slaves, the only difference was in the name. According to the
people in ancient Greece the sole purpose of women were to cater to men. Many men
perceived women as being creatures that were created to produce children, please men
and fulfill their household duties. Men were scared of women gaining confidence to
speak out against the way they were treated and against men. In the play, Antigone
confronts Creon by burying Polynieces after he gave strict orders that no one should
bury him. When Creon found out it was Antigone that buried him, he never considered
the idea that a women would step out of her conventional role.
Sexism plays a large part in the play Antigone. It appears when Antigone and
Creon are discussing the issue of her burying, Polynieces. Creon states Who is the
man here,/She or I, if this crime goes unpunished? (II, 204) This statement shows
sexism because Creon feels his pride will be taken away by a woman if she goes
unpunished for defying Creon s word and the government. Creon makes remarks about
women in text showing that they are worth nothing. For they are but women (Ode II,
209) stated by Creon. As Creon and his son Haimon, converse about his marriage to
Antigone, he says And no woman shall seduce us. If we must lose,/ Let s lose to a
man, at least! Is a woman stronger than/ we? (III, 212) His belief that women are weak
and men are strong shows how men thought of women in ancient Greece.
Antigone was brave and an intellectual. She was not nearly as incapable and
weak as Greek culture believed women to be. She represented a high ideal of human
life- respect and courage according to Sophocles. Antigone was not the traditional
woman her sister, Ismene was. She did what was right. What she felt was moral and
she obeyed the Gods word. Antigone stood up to man and voiced her opinion which
was not expected or tolerated from women. A part of her was very strong minded and
she fought for what she believed in. In the opening scene Antigone talks to Ismene
about burying Polynieces and defying the word of Creon. This a powerful conversation
between the two sisters that shows the determination of Antigone that women of her
time did not have.
Antigone stood up to the government and male authority by burying her brother.
An important objective in ancient Greece was the belief that the government was to
have no control in the matters dealing with religious beliefs. In Antigone s eyes, Creon
betrayed the ideal by not allowing her to give Polynieces the proper burial. She felt that
the burial was a religious ceremony that Creon did not have the right to intervene with.
Antigone s firm beliefs led to her death by the hands of Creon. Never did she stop
fighting for what she believed in. As she was ordered to her death by Creon, she states,
You smile at me. Ah Creon,/ Think me a fool, if you like; but it may well be/ that a fool
convicts me of folly. (II. 203) She calls him a fool and belittles his pride. Antigone says,
I go, his prisoner, / Because I honored those things in which honor truly belongs.
Directly, she is humiliating Creon by calling his beliefs and decisions frail and
unjustifiable. Her belief is that he is abusing his power as king and punishing her only
for the fact that she is a woman.
In the 1800 s the time in which Susan B. Anthony lived society was basically the
same. Females were subservient to men. Throughout this time women were living in a
male dominant society never expecting to gain rights until one woman stepped forward
to help women gain rights and better the society they were living in.
At one time in American society, women were not permitted to own property,
were discouraged from seeking higher education and were forced to stay home and
have children and do household chores. Nothing more was expected of them but to
serve men and be housewives. Society slightly evolved in those times but not enough
for women to gain freedom.
World War II and the Industrial Revolution put women into the American
workforce for the first time in history. They were placed in what traditionally were male
dominated positions. For the first time women discovered that they could be financially
independent from males. Shortly after, the war ended and women were forced back into
the home into their traditional roles.
Sexism was evident in the days of Susan B. Anthony. Men and even slaves at
this time were given the right to vote. Yet women were looked upon as lower than
slaves and were only expected to have children and serve their husband. In a male
dominant society women needed to live with the sexist way of life because the women
were to afraid to step forth and revolt.
Anthony defied the traditional role of women. She was educated, independent,
and outspoken. Unlike most women of her day, she attended school until the age
fifteen. She than became a school teacher at a female boarding school until she was
thirty years old. After teaching for years, she began working with woman and children
who suffered from alcoholic husbands. Anthony joined many organizations protesting
violence, slavery and women s rights. At this time, Anthony became the first feminist.
She was brave, courageous, and fought for what she thought was right even if others
did not agree. Equality and the right to vote for women was what she wanted and no
one was going to stop her protests, not even the government.
Anthony challenged the government and registered to vote. In the 1872
presidential election, she casted a vote and was arrested. She was convicted of
breaking the law and refused to pay the fine. She retaliated against the government in
order to get what she wanted as did Antigone. Anthony was jailed many times for
defying the government but she paid the consequences. Spending many nights in jail
and paying many fines. Yet her punishment was not as severe as Antigone s, she did
succeed in getting what she wanted. Although she died before the 19th Amendment
was adopted, people all around the world know that it was her hard work, dedication and
free will that brought it about.
As a result from my research you can see that even though Antigone and Susan
B. Anthony were born in two different times they both share similarities. Through their
defiance, bravery and beliefs women have gained better opportunities today. Though
men and women are still not equal, these two women s actions have brought women
along way from where we once were. This proves my thesis that both women were
feminist, martyrs to females who were afraid to speak up for what they themselves
believed in fear of being persecuted by men and the government