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Conference, exhibit highlight yearlong Anthony tribute


To some she was a saint and a hero, to others an insufferable inciter. To her army of suffragists she was simply Aunt Susan. On March 13, 1906--14 years before women would earn the right to vote--Susan B. Anthony died in Rochester at the age of 86. Thousands of friends, suffrage activists, and admirers braved a vicious snow storm to pay their last respects to an outspoken champion for the cause for women's rights.

Well known for her activism in the women's suffrage movement, Anthony also campaigned for women's rights to their own property and earnings and women's labor organizations. She also fought for the admission of women to the University in 1900, pledging $2,000 of her own life insurance to defray the costs of admission.

A century after her death, scholars from around the country will gather at the University to reflect on Anthony's role and influence in history as part of the first academic conference dedicated solely to Anthony, her work, and her contemporaries. "Susan B. Anthony and the Struggle for Equal Rights," which continues from Thursday, March 30, to Saturday, April 1, is sponsored by the Anthony Center for Women's Leadership, the Department of History, and Rush Rhees Library.

"Over the decades, the women's movement has been looked at from different perspectives, like ethnicity and race," says Mary Huth, conference cochair and assistant director of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections that houses an impressive array of Anthony-related materials. "We want to go back and look at the person who led the movement for 50 years. Anthony was revered and it was her followers who carried the torch until American women got the right to vote in 1920."

"Recently, there has been much scholarly work done on the role of other suffragists," adds cochair Christine Ridarsky, a doctoral student in the history department. "We need to re-evaluate Anthony's role. For example, there has not been a lot of discussion about her influence on suffrage movements in the West, where four states gave women the vote before Anthony's death."

The conference opens Thursday evening, March 30, with a keynote address by Ann Gordon, editor of the Stanton and Anthony Papers Project at Rutgers University and a consultant on the Ken Burns documentary Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Her talk, titled "Knowing Susan B. Anthony: The Stories We Tell of Life," begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Hawkins-Carlson Room in Rush Rhees Library. It is also part of the Verne Moore Lecture Series sponsored by the Department of History, and is free and open to the public.

Among the participants in conference sessions is Spencerport native Nancy Hewitt, director of the Institute for Research on Women and professor of history and women's studies at Rutgers. She is the author of a book on the history of Rochester women titled Women's Activism and Social Change: Rochester, New York, 1822­1872. Other presenters during the sessions on Friday and Saturday, for which registration and fees are required, include Sally Roesch Wagner, executive director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation in Fayetteville, N.Y.; Faye Dudden, professor of history, Colgate University; Kathi Kern, associate professor of history, University of Kentucky; Lisa Tetrault, assistant professor of history, Carnegie Mellon University; and Judith Wellman, professor emerita of history, Oswego State University of New York. Special registration discounts are available for faculty, staff, and students.

Coinciding with the conference is an exhibition in Rush Rhees Library featuring original letters, photographs, printed material, and memorabilia drawn from its extensive Anthony and women's suffrage collections. Celebrating 'A Heroic Life': 1820­1906 opens Monday, March 13, and continues through August 31 in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. The exhibition, curated by Huth, progresses from Anthony's birth in Adams, Mass., in 1820, to her early career in the temperance and abolition movements, and then to what became her lifelong commitment to the cause of equal rights for women. Personal items such as a cameo pin bought for her sister, a tea cup and saucer she gave her mother, and a needle case she made when she was 15 will supplement important documents and photographs.

Both the conference and the exhibition are part of a yearlong commemoration of the centennial anniversary of Anthony's death. The initiative, "100 Years Since Susan B. . . . Consider the Anthony Legacy," is spearheaded by the Anthony Center. The commemoration is designed to inspire what center director Nora Bredes describes as "community conversations" about the current status of women.

"It has taken tremendous effort, persistence, and sacrifice for women to get access to the same opportunities as men," says Bredes. "But there's still much work that needs to be done. Women hold only 15 percent of the seats in Congress, and there is still a pay gap between men and women, which gets bigger once women have children. We need to ask ourselves, 'What would Susan say?' "

The Anthony Center has developed an online blog ( to encourage conversations around Anthony's accomplishments and legacy and discussions about the issues and struggles women still face. The center also has created a yearlong calendar of related events. Details are available at or by contacting the center at x5-8799 or

March Tributes

Women's History Month

"With women such as these consecrating their lives, failure is impossible!"

--Susan B. Anthony at her 86th birthday party in Washington, D.C.

Issues affecting women's lives are in focus this month at the University. Talks, concerts, and ongoing exhibitions are planned in honor of national Women's History Month. For details, visit

Paying respects

Eight female College undergraduates will serve as honorary pallbearers--the same role female undergraduates filled a century ago--during a reenactment of Anthony's funeral sponsered by the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester. The students are Jamie Frank '09, Julianne Nigro '09, Lucia Spinelli '07, Julie Stoltman '06, Susan Storey '08, Tess Troha-Thompson '06, and Amy Velchoff '07. All are members of Women's Caucus, an undergraduate group that works to promote gender equality and human rights for all women.

"University women carried her casket then for the same reason we will now, to show our respect for the hard work Susan B. Anthony put into getting women admitted to the University," says Nigro. "We feel it is important to recognize her for her efforts."

The service begins at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at 50 N. Plymouth Ave., the original site of Anthony's funeral, now the Hochstein School. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit

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