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.
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).