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