University of Rochester

The 'Heroic' Life of Susan B. Anthony Honored in Special Exhibit

March 6, 2006

The intensely solemn facial expressions in photographs of Susan B. Anthony belie her vitality, her very public life, and her undaunted spirit to get U.S. women the vote.

"No one at that time smiled in photographs," says Mary M. Huth, curator of a new University of Rochester exhibition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Anthony's death. "Despite the fact that she looks somber, she was known to have a good personality, and she attracted legions of women to support the suffrage cause."

The older she got, the more photographs were taken—and the bigger the crowds to see "the icon of the suffrage movement." Anthony died on March 13, 1906, at age 86, after dedicating her life to winning for women their political, civil, economic, and educational rights. At her funeral, her ally in the movement, Anna Howard Shaw, said of the leader and the face of women's rights, "Hers was a heroic life."

"Celebrating 'A Heroic Life': 1820-1906" opens Monday, March 13, and continues through Aug. 31 in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections in Rush Rhees Library on the University's River Campus. It includes original letters, photographs, printed material, and memorabilia drawn from its extensive Anthony and woman suffrage collections.

The exhibition will progress from her birth in Adams, Mass., in 1820, to her early career in the temperance and abolition movements, and then 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 paper documents and photographs.

Hours for the exhibit are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday; and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. (For summer hours beginning May 22, please check

Throughout this year, organizations around Rochester are planning concerts, exhibitions, lectures, and other events to bring attention to the suffragist's work, the progress women have made in the past century, and the barriers that still remain to women's full equality. A three-day women's history conference—for scholars and the general public—will be held March 30 to April 1 in Rush Rhees Library on "Susan B. Anthony & the Struggle for Equal Rights." It is co-chaired by Huth and history graduate student Christine L. Ridarsky. Registration and fees are required. For more information, visit

At Anthony's funeral in Rochester, thousands of people turned out, many standing outside in a snowstorm before they could view her casket. "She lived to see that great hostility to her mellow," explains Huth.

A reenactment of the funeral program with hymns, eulogies, and University of Rochester female students as honorary pallbearers will occur at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 25. It will be held at 50 N. Plymouth Ave., the site of Anthony's funeral that is now The Hochstein School. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information on the Anthony exhibition, contact (585) 275-4477.

Note to editors: A few digital images of Susan B. Anthony can be sent to you. Please credit the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of Rochester. Call (585) 275-4128 or send your request to