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University of Rochester

Susan B. Anthony Legacy Dinner

"Both sexes eat, sleep, hate, love and desire alike. If they are allowed to attend picnics together, and balls, and dancing schools, and the opera, it certainly will not injure them to use chalk at the same blackboard."
Susan B. Anthony, 1856

Susan B. Anthony's birthday has been a cause for celebration at the University of Rochester since 1947, when women students first proclaimed February 15th as Susan B. Anthony Day, in honor of the "patron saint of Prince Street women."

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In the sixty years since, women students have moved from Prince Street to join the men on the River Campus (1955) and SBA Day has become the Susan B. Anthony Legacy Dinner.

The annual event commemorates Anthony's campaign to win women admission to the University. Awards are presented to the University's leading women; an alumna delivers the Susan B. Anthony Legacy Address; and the transformative story of Anthony's fight for co-education is remembered.


How Susan B. Anthony Won the Battle for Coeducation

From The Croceus, a magazine published by the Women of the Junior Class of the University of Rochester, 1909:

"...In 1898 the Trustees of the University agreed to make the institution coeducational, provided the women of Rochester could raise $100,000* to be added to the endowment of the University, within a year. At the year's end, the stupendous task was far from being accomplished, though considerable progress has been made. Yielding to the pressure of public opinion, the Trustees extended the time for another year, and reduced the sum to $50,000."

Miss Anthony, fully occupied with the strenuous duties of her calling, left the actual collection of the funds to others, and was quite appalled to hear, on September 7, 1900, from the secretary of the fund committee, that there were still lacking $8,000 to complete the required amount, and that the time limit expired the next day.

The burden of the enterprise which she had inaugurated was to fall upon her shoulders after all.

She spent a sleepless night, but by mid-afternoon of the next day she had succeeded in securing additional pledges for $6,000. The day was waning, however; the Board was in session and liable to adjourn at any time; and the cause would be lost. Finally, at the crucial moment, her indomitable perseverance conquered. The last $2,000 was pledged by an aged and wealthy citizen of Rochester, and Miss Anthony proceeded in triumph to the Trustees.

But her triumph was short-lived. The pledges were duly examined and approved, with the exception of that last $2,000, which was declared invalid owing to the age and precarious health of the donor. Miss Anthony was stunned. Should the battle be lost, on a technicality?

Never! She had not wished the cause of coeducation to suffer from any connection with her name, she told the august gentlemen, and then added firmly, "I now pledge my life insurance for the $2,000." The deed was done.

In the language of the press, "The doors of the University of Rochester were opened to women." That they had been opened by the women, for the women, might with equal propriety have been added.

*$100,000 in 1900 would be $1.9 million today; $2,000 in 1900 would be $38,000.

The annual Susan B. Anthony Legacy Dinner serves as a celebration of the suffragist's birthday and as an awards forum.

The Center uses the dinner to honor both a Lifetime Achievement Award winner and undergraduate women. Undergraduate awards include the Susan B. Anthony Scholarship, the Susan B. Anthony Prize, the Fannie Bigelow Scholarship, and the Jane R. Plitt Scholarship.