February 20, 2013
Events explore life and legacy of Susan B. Anthony
The term “radical” often brings to mind the image of a vagrant with extreme views. So it may be difficult for many people to see Susan B. Anthony, who was often photographed looking dignified and austere, as the controversial figure that she was. To help bridge that historical gap, University scholars present “The World of Susan B. Anthony,” a series of events aimed at reminding this generation about the challenges and customs that defined the lives of Anthony and other women in the late 19th century.
“You think of suffrage, temperance, and abolition when you think of Ms. Anthony, but there are other things that defined her life,” says Honey Meconi, Susan B. Anthony Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and the director of the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies.
For example, in the 1820s women not only made their own clothes, but they sometimes made their own cloth. And as the daughter of a mill owner, Anthony experienced the manual labor and tasks that women were expected to perform. “She saw early on that if you marry, this is what your lot will be, and I believe that really affected her,” Meconi says.
The project’s next event is Thursday, Feb. 21, with a talk by Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, about how etiquette in the 19th century both helped and hindered women’s ability to seek change.
“Through these talks we want the community to be able to see history from the bottom up,” Meconi says. “We all know what Anthony accomplished in her life, but we want to show what led her to that point and how the world around her affected the decisions she made.”
The project coincides with the new exhibit on display in Rush Rhees Library, A Citizen’s Right to Vote. Cocurated by Angela Clark- Taylor, program manager in the Susan B. Anthony Institute, and manuscript librarian Lori Birrell, the exhibit chronicles 80 years of activism for women’s rights. On display are artifacts ranging from Anthony’s teacup, letters between Anthony and civil rights leader and Rochester native Frederick Douglass, and responses from students on how the right to vote impacts their life. According to Birrell, “the exhibit connects to the current curriculum as well as Anthony’s connection the Rochester area.”
The series is sponsored by the University’s Humanities Project, an interdepartmental endeavor designed to support work by Rochester faculty in all fields of humanistic inquiry.
Mind your manners
The next event in The World of Susan B. Anthony is a Feb. 21 talk by “Miss Manners,” Judith Martin, about how etiquette in the 19th century both helped and hindered women’s ability to seek change.
Here’s a quick look at some common etiquette rules in the late 19th-century America, according to Thomas Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms (1889).
- Be cool, collected, and self-possessed, using respectful, chaste, and appropriate language.
- Always defend the absent person who is being spoken of, as far as truth and justice will permit.
- Allow people who you are with to do their full share of the talking if they evince a willingness to converse.
- Beware of talking much about yourself. Your merits will be discovered in due time, without the necessity of sounding your own praises.
- Do not manifest impatience.
- Do not talk of your private, personal, and family matters.
- Do not feel it incumbent upon yourself to carry your point in conversation. Should the person with whom you are conversing feel the same, your talk will lead into violent argument.
- A gentleman may take two ladies upon his arms, but under no circumstances should the lady take the arms of two gentlemen.
- The gentleman should insist upon carrying any package which the lady may have, when walking with her.
- A gentleman should give his seat to any lady who may be standing in a public conveyance. For this favor she should thank him, which courtesy he should acknowledge by a slight bow.
- A true lady will go quietly and unobtrusively about her business when on the street never seeking to attract the attention of the opposite sex, at the same time recognizing acquaintances with a courteous bow, and friends with pleasant words of greeting.
- Never attempt to talk with the mouth full.
- Never wipe your fingers on the tablecloth, nor clean them in your mouth.
- Never make a display when removing hair, insects, or other disagreeable things from your food. Place them quietly on the edge of your plate.
- Never expectorate at the table; also avoid sneezing or coughing. It is better to arise quietly from the table if you have occasion to do so. A sneeze is prevented by placing the finger firmly on the upper lip.