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.”