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."
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.
The Anthony Center for Women's Leadership presents its Lifetime Achievement Award and the women's scholarships and prizes annually at the Susan B. Anthony Legacy Dinner, held annually in early February. The University of Rochester Women's Club co-sponsors the dinner and administers the Susan B. Anthony scholarship and prize.
The Susan B. Anthony Scholarship and Prize
Susan B. Anthony's friends and family first endowed a scholarship in her honor in 1900. The initial $1000 fund was enough to generate $50 a year to provide a full scholarship to a deserving woman student. In the 1920s, Lucy Anthony, Anthony's niece, made another donation to insure the fund would continue to meet the full cost of annual tuition and fees—$250.
Women students at the University have always felt a special bond to Anthony. They were honor guards at her funeral in 1906 and, in 1946, the women's Student Association voted to sponsor an annual Susan B. Anthony Day, scheduled to celebrate her February 15th birthday. A gala luncheon was held, awards were given and internationally renowned women were invited to speak to advance women's rights.
Since 1979, the UR Women's Club has sponsored the University's two Anthony awards. The Susan B. Anthony Scholarship is given to a woman in her junior year who has demonstrated leadership, academic excellence and commitment to her fellow students and community. A student's financial need is taken into account.
The Susan B. Anthony Prize is awarded to a graduating woman student who has shown exceptional leadership, academic excellence and involvement in student life.
The Fannie Bigelow Scholarship
Fannie Bigelow was a friend of Susan B. Anthony's and a fellow-worker in the causes of women's suffrage, education and independence. She fought on behalf of women prisoners in the Monroe County jail, worked at the Baden Street Settlement House and championed the creation of a Children's Court in New York State, now the Family Court. Bigelow was chair of the Women's Education Fund, the committee that raised the $50,000 required by the University trustees to underwrite women's admission to UR in 1900.
In 1947, Bigelow's sisters, nephews and grandniece endowed a fund at the University in her memory. The fund afforded silver trays to be given to an alumna and woman undergraduate. Presented on Susan B. Anthony Day, the student award would go to "an undergraduate upperclassman chosen on the basis of her individuality, her ability to form and express fearlessly, with conviction and sound judgment, her opinions on vital topics. She shall demonstrate that she participates in extra-curricular activities because she sincerely believes in their value to the college community beyond their purely social worth."
The silver trays became a single scholarship to an undergraduate at the recommendation of the Alumnae Traditions Committee in 1972.
The Jane R. Plitt Scholarship
Given in honor of a present day, dynamic Rochesterian, the Jane R. Plitt Scholarship helps recognize and foster the progressive activism of some of Rochester's most famous women. Jane Plitt led the local fight to make the Gannett newspapers' help wanted ads gender neutral. As the National Organization for Women's first executive director, she helped to open the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs to women. Plitt is a Visiting Scholar at the University. Her book, Martha Matilda Harper: How One Woman Changed the Face of Modern Business, was published by Syracuse University Press in 2000.
Ms. Plitt's sister and brother-in-law, Arlene and Richard Kossoff, endowed the scholarship in 1999 to be awarded to a woman undergraduate who is a leader dedicated to constructive social change in her community.
The Susan B. Anthony Lifetime Achievement Award
The Susan B. Anthony Lifetime Achievement Award was established by the Anthony Center for Women's Leadership to honor and celebrate women whose lives have been enriched by their years at the University of Rochester and who have, in turn, inspired other women to advance and lead.
The award was established in 1997 and has been given to Jean Watkeys, M.D. (1997), one of three women in her UR Medical School class; Ruth Lawrence, M.D. (1998), a renowned neonatologist; Myra Gelband (1998), a senior editor at Sports Illustrated; Paula Brownlee, Ph.D. (2000), the first woman president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities; Barbara Hotham Iglewski, Ph.D. (2001), professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and also the first woman to chair a department at the University of Rochester Medical School; and Elizabeth R. McAnarney, M.D. (2001), professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center and Pediatrician-in-Chief of the Children's Hospital at Strong.