By Josh Morse ’14 & Alayna Callanan ’14
In a new course offered this spring, University of Rochester students will take a closer look at Susan B. Anthony’s life. Taught by Professor Honey Meconi, who also is the director of the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies, Susan B. Anthony and Her World seeks to encompass not only the major political issues that defined Susan B. Anthony’s life, but the physical, material, and cultural world which shaped her work.
Here in Rochester, Susan B. Anthony’s home for many years, we are uniquely positioned to explore her life. Meconi plans to capitalize on this with a number of field trips including visits to Anthony’s gravesite, the Susan B. Anthony Museum and House downtown, and to the Matilda Joslyn Gage House, located in Fayetteville, NY. “I’m always struck by how many students have never visited Anthony’s gravesite or her home, much less other nearby sites for women’s history,” Meconi explains. “Seeing these places really puts historical events in a new light, and I want to make sure that interested U of R students have that experience.”
Expanding upon this physical connection with Susan B. Anthony’s life, Meconi is partnering with the Humanities Project to bring four guest lecturers to Rochester, who will discuss different aspects of the social climate surrounding Susan B. Anthony.
Erika Howard ’13, an English major and women’s studies minor, is excited to be enrolled in the course. “I’ve always been fascinated with Susan B. Anthony and her ties to not only the city of Rochester, but our school as well,” Howard says. “Despite this deep link, however, I’ve never had a chance to study her other than a brief covering of her and other suffragists in the Colloquium of Women’s Studies course.”
By exploring Susan B. Anthony’s world, Meconi hopes her students will gain a more informed viewpoint from which to critically examine today’s social issues. “We are far from living in a post-racial society, alcohol abuse is still widespread (not least on college campuses), and one could well argue that women’s rights have eroded in recent decades,” Meconi says. “Knowing how we got where we are today always puts us in a stronger position in dealing with problems.”
Above all, Meconi hopes to impart a deeper appreciation of the challenges Susan B. Anthony undertook, and the strength it took to overcome them. “In terms of challenges for Anthony, the assumption that women were inferior to men in virtually all respects-a claim supposedly supported by “scientific” evidence-made it difficult for her and her colleagues to be taken seriously. This meant glacial progress towards suffrage, which only came after her death and the death of her closest friend, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Yet neither woman gave up on their quest for equality. They knew that what they were working for was right. Their tenacity remains incredibly inspiring.”
Photo provided by the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies