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Events Explore Susan B. Anthony’s Life and Legacy

February 7, 2013
locket with image of Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony

Today, 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, scholars at the University of Rochester are presenting 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,” said 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,” said Meconi.

The project’s four events begin at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7, with a talk about quilts and their role in religion, politics, and reform, and continues on Thurs. 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,” said Meconi. “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. Co-curated 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 tea cup, 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.”

In 1900, the Rochester resident pledged the value of her life insurance policy to conclude the campaign to win women admission to the University of Rochester. According to Meconi, the project, which overlaps with a new course she developed called Susan B. Anthony and Her World, exposes both students and the community to things you can only experience in Rochester.

“We want to encourage the community to connect with the University through Anthony’s legacy and to take advantage of the resources our area has to offer,” said Meconi. This includes Anthony’s gravesite in Mount Hope Cemetery, the national Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, the Matilda Joslyn Gage house and library, and nearby Seneca Falls, home to the first women’s rights conference.

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, and runs from Feb. 7 to April 4. The talks are free and open to the public. For details, visit

The World of Susan B. Anthony includes:

“The Material World”
Talk titled, “Reminiscences of Women’s Work: Quilts in Religion, Politics, and Reform” with Carolyn Ducey, curator of collections at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, University of Nebraska.
Thursday, Feb. 7, 5 p.m.
Welles Brown Room, Rush Rhees Library

“The Polite World”
Talk with Judith Martin, journalist, author, and etiquette authority “Miss Manners.”
Thursday, Feb. 21, 5 p.m.
Hawkins-Carlson Room, Rush Rhees Library

“The Sonic World”
Talk with Deane L. Root, director and Fletcher Hodges, Jr. Curator at the Center for American Music, University of Pittsburgh.
Thursday, March 21, 5 p.m.
Welles Brown Room, Rush Rhees Library

“The Fashionable World”
Talk titled, “Little Ladies in Pants” with Gayle V. Fischer, Associate Professor of History at Salem State University and author of Pantaloons and Power.
Thursday, April 4, 5 p.m.
Welles Brown Room, Rush Rhees Library

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Category: Society & Culture