Anthony Museum Raises Concern over Continued Misuse of Anthony’s Name and Legacy

Rochester, NY – In light of recent events in the world of American politics, the National Susan B Anthony Museum & House today reiterated its nonpartisan educational mission to inspire and challenge individuals, through Susan B Anthony’s life and work, to make a positive difference in their lives and communities.

 

Today, presidential candidate, Donald Trump, announced his intention to create a “pro-life coalition” headed by Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List. This coalition would work to support Mr. Trump’s previously declared commitments to the anti-abortion movement and to encourage voter turnout in key battleground states. The Susan B. Anthony List is a 501(c)(4) organization. Along with its affiliated political action committee, the SBA List Candidate Fund, this organization has long raised concerns for the Anthony Museum and those dedicated to protecting the legacy of the great reformer. Neither organization is in any way affiliated or in partnership with the National Susan B Anthony Museum & House.

 

“Not only does the Museum maintain a nonpartisan perspective,” said president and CEO, Deborah L. Hughes, “but it would not be in keeping with Susan B. Anthony’s legacy to endorse a political candidate. We are pleased that this once-reviled woman has earned such a high place of honor and authority that individuals and organizations seek her as their champion, but the National Susan B Anthony Museum & House is here to tell the authentic story of her life and work, rather than to use her name for a political agenda.”

 

The National Susan B Anthony Museum & House, a 501(c)(3) educational entity, is dedicated to preserving and interpreting Anthony’s life and work in a historically accurate and responsible manner. It is not affiliated with any other organization bearing the name of Susan B Anthony.

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Please send any inquiries re: this statement to president & CEO, Deborah L. Hughes.

From our president & CEO…

This past year has been one of triumph and challenge. In so many ways, Susan B. Anthony’s life and work seem more relevant than ever as we head into 2016.

The Anthony Museum began 2015 with an exciting Susan B. Anthony Birthday Luncheon focused on the accomplishments of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Lynn Sherr addressed a sold out crowd of more than 1,000 guests who were moved and inspired by the life story of Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space.  Our theme, “Thanks to Susan B., We Can Reach For the Stars”, inspired many to contribute their own video messages of thanks.

In March, the United States commemorated the March on Selma fifty years earlier, but as the year unfolded, we were confronted with many ways in which racism is a part of our present world, not just a subject to be learned from our history books.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 also celebrated its 50th anniversary this summer. Susan B. Anthony envisioned a day when no one would face the barriers or injustice of prejudice; however, recent court challenges and new legislation in some states continue to demonstrate what she knew to be true: the vote is so powerful that there are those who will contrive to control it for their own ends.

Thanks to the release of the feature film, Suffragette, this fall, we experienced a surge of international interest in women’s history. The Friends of the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House hosted a sold-out screening of the film, which was followed by a panel discussion of the history behind its powerful story.

Just this past month, we celebrated the empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia as they cast their ballots and ran for local office for the first time. This despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is still an absolute monarchy that limits many basic rights and freedoms for both men and women. We are reminded of those women in the United States who were enfranchised at the local or state level, but waited another three decades or more before they would have a vote in their national government.

A reporter once asked Susan B. Anthony how she endured the decades of work for woman suffrage with mostly losses to show for her efforts. She responded, “Defeats? There have been none. We are always progressing.”

In that spirit, THANK YOU for helping us keep Susan B. Anthony’s vision alive. The world still needs her message of equality, freedom, and justice for all.

~Deborah L. Hughes, president & CEO

Rochester Icon Defamed by National Political Action Group

Rochester, NY – Our local community is proud of its internationally famous woman’s rights champion: Susan B. Anthony. Visitors come from around the world to visit her National Historic Landmark in this city, which was her home and headquarters for forty years and is now the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House.

At the time of her death in 1906, one reporter commented, “The death of Susan B. Anthony removes the greatest woman that this country has produced. That may seem to be an extravagant statement, but history will sustain it.” (Chattanooga, Tennessee News)   Even in her generation, she won the respect of those who disagreed with her politics. The Brooklyn, NY, Eagle described woman’s suffrage as “one of the world’s lost causes”, but said of Anthony, “Anyone who met her or heard her on the platform was won by her honesty and sincerity and by her pungent common sense.”

“She was a human being, not a saint,” admits Deborah L. Hughes, President & CEO of the Anthony Museum, “but even her adversaries respected her character and courage. She is a role model for anyone who wants to live an ethical life of meaning and purpose.”

The recent activities of the Susan B. Anthony List, a 501(c)(4) organization, and its affiliated political action committee, the SBA List Candidate Fund, have raised concerns for the Anthony Museum & those dedicated to protecting the legacy of the great reformer.

The List’s assertions about Susan B. Anthony’s position on abortion are historically inaccurate. “We can make room for a different interpretation of history, and we certainly support political engagement,” says Hughes, “but their tactics repeatedly cross a line that is outrageous and inconsistent with who Susan B. Anthony was. Her good character is being defamed by their actions. People are outraged by their actions, causing harm to Anthony’s name and the mission of our Museum.”

The most recent example is an election mailer that voters in Iowa received this week. The outside of the mailer looks like an official announcement of a disease outbreak, “PUBLIC HEALTH ALERT: CHILDREN IN YOUR AREA ARE VULNERABLE TO A PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT THAT CONTINUES UNCONTROLLED. . .” Inside, it diagnoses that public health threat as the Democratic Senatorial candidate.

When contacted by press about the mailing, Mallory Quigley, spokesperson for The List, wrote in an email, “Abortion is a very serious public health risk both for the child whose life is ended and the mother who may suffer health complications. Voters deserve to know where their candidates stand on this life and death issue.”

The Anthony Museum is dedicated to preserving and interpreting Susan B. Anthony’s life & work in a historically accurate and responsible manner. Unfortunately, the confusion that results from the actions of The List and its affiliates is not new. Hughes has continually addressed the matter, including in a 2012 interview with Lauren Feeney of BillMoyers.com.

“Depending on how you feel about the political issue, you might say The List and this mailer are ‘brilliant’ or ‘horrific.’ That isn’t our issue,” says Hughes. “Our concern is that a national political lobbying group is using Susan B. Anthony’s good name for their benefit, and they are damaging her reputation in the process.”

Image Credit: Amy Kernan, Davenport, Iowa (as published by Buzzfeed.com)
Image Credit: Amy Kernan, Davenport, Iowa (as published by Buzzfeed.com)

A Fifth-Grade Feminist

Keeping Susan B. Anthony’s vision alive and relevant is our passion at the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House. But how do we measure our impact in the world? Here’s what a fifth-grade teacher shared with our program director, Annie Callanan, after his class experienced our “Change It!” program yesterday:

“Thank you again!! My class had a wonderful time and got so much out of the program.

“On our way back one of my students confronted a group of construction workers and told them she didn’t like their ‘Men Working’ sign. She told them it should say ‘People Working’. One gentleman pointed out that there were only men on the crew. My lovely [student] responded with, “ Well I have another issue, why are there no women on your crew? Shoot, I can do this work.” A group of grown men dumbfounded by the brass of my beautiful young student. Thank you for inspiring them!! It was awesome!!”

I imagine Susan B. Anthony would approve!

Thank you, teacher Dale Spafford, for getting your students to the Anthony House for a field trip. Thank you, fifth graders! We are impressed that you applied for a scholarship to cover your admission and that you all walked here!  Thank you, Joanne French and Bonnie Anne Briggs, our two volunteer docents who led the program (we have 110 inspiring volunteer docents!).  Thank you, Lois and Arn Hart, for providing the scholarship funds that covered the admission for this class.

We love that this particular class came from Clara Barton School #2. Mary Anthony, Susan’s sister, was the first female principal at School #2, where she demanded equal pay for equal work more than a century ago and got it!!  Not only was Clara Barton the founder the American Red Cross, but she was a friend of Mary and Susan B. Anthony and a SUFFRAGIST herself!

Finally, we want to say thank you to the courageous young woman from Mr. Spafford’s fifth grade class who is keeping Susan B. Anthony’s vision alive and relevant!!

We’re not THAT Susan B. Anthony!

It’s a matter of brand confusion, at the very least.  Although we may be THE Susan B. Anthony House (and the only National Historic Landmark Museum bearing the great reformer’s name), there are dozens of other organizations that have chosen to include our hero’s moniker in their title. Her name is in the public domain, and we cannot control how it is used. From the number of “Susan B. Anthony” listings on Facebook, one might conclude that the never-married Ms. Anthony had progeny as numerous as the stars. But brand confusion about Susan B. Anthony is no laughing matter.

Four years ago, a very angry father left a message on my voice mail.  He called me names I had never been called. For this pastor-turned-museum-director, it was my first experience at being the object of vitriol from a complete stranger. His tone and language were evidence of deep rage, and he was certain that I was the appropriate target. After all, I was the director of the “Susan B. Anthony” House.

This young father’s rancor was triggered by a phone call. It was the height of election season. His six year old daughter answered their home phone and was treated to a robo-call message that apparently described late-term abortion in graphic detail.  The child was confused and frightened by the “murder” she had heard described. Her father was shocked to hear what his daughter had been exposed on their home phone.  Appalled and enraged, he checked the caller ID, and it clearly stated “Susan B Anthony” had called.  He googled the name, and the Susan B. Anthony House popped up on his screen (we are proud to have earned that status).  He dialed the number and ended up in my voice mail box. And he let me have it.

Fortunately, we were able to return his call and explain that we are not that Susan B. Anthony.  This Susan B. Anthony did not sponsor that robo-call.  This Susan B. Anthony did not endorse Rick Santorum for president (but we did have several people call us to cancel their support of our organization when they heard the announcement and one who told us Santorum was not conservative enough for their taste). This Susan B. Anthony has not promised $10 million to the Mitt Romney campaign (but the calls and emails we received  today about that announcement triggered this blog post).

This Susan B. Anthony House is a non-partisan Museum and learning center in Rochester, New York, that strives to be an authentic witness to the life and work of Susan B. Anthony.  Please do not confuse us with any other organization bearing the “Susan B. Anthony” name.  In particular, please don’t confuse us with the political action group, the Susan B. Anthony List, that claims to “support pro-life leadership” and apparently has a lot of money to leverage.

Please do not be confused by political parties, caucuses, or groups that claim they know what Susan B. Anthony would say about a contemporary issue.

While we are delighted that the once-reviled radical feminist has earned such a high place of honor and authority that everyone seems to want her for their champion, we are here to tell the authentic story of Susan B. Anthony, not to use her name for a political agenda.

Deborah L. Hughes, president & CEO

 

Kate Gleason a Remarkable Pioneer

Life and Letters of Kate Gleason book jacketThe Anthony House was delighted to feature author Janis F. Gleason for two programs on March 21, introducing the audience to the new biography of the woman Susan B. Anthony declared to be “the ideal business woman of whom I dreamed fifty years ago.”  Engineer, entrepreneur, bank executive, and philanthropist were among Kate’s accomplishments. “She built a country club and a golf course, ran a trailer car company, and designed what was perhaps the first mobile camper pulled by an automobile. . .bought land. . .built houses. . .constructed a hotel, a resort” and helped “to rebuild the structure and spirit of the war-decimated town” of Septmonts, France, writes Gleason.

Here’s what executive director, Deborah L. Hughes, says about this new biography:

Kate Gleason was born into a world and a century that wasn’t ready for her confidence, courage, or competence,just like her friend and mentor, Susan B. Anthony. Kate was more than ready for the world.  Plunge into the “Life and Letters” to journey with this remarkable woman whose life flows from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the Great Depression, from Rochester to France, and from California to South Carolina.  You will emerge feeling energized and renewed by what woman can accomplish.

The Life and Letters of Kate Gleason is available in our Visitors Center Museum Shop and in our online store.