This past weekend, UR served as the host to the program “Susan B. Anthony & the Struggle for Equal Rights.” The conference, which is part of the year long commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Anthony’s death, was sponsored by the UR’s Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership, the Department of History, and Rush Rhees Library as well as the Goldberg-Berbeco Foundation and the Lloyd E.Klos Historical Fund.
The panel, made up of historians from more than 30 universities and colleges, discussed a wide range of issues including diversity, reform movements and politics and citizenship. Though panelists also discussed the work of many of Anthony’s contemporaries such as Jane Addams and Mabilda Josly Gage, a large portion of the panel was devoted to discussing and celebrating the profound efforts Anthony had in the women’s reform movement.
“Over the decades the women’s movement has been looked at from different perspectives, like ethnicity and race,” librarian in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections and conference co-chair Mary Huth said. “We want to go back and look at the person who led the movement for 50 years. Anthony was revered and it was her followers who carried the torch until American women got the right to vote in 1920.”
The conference began on Thursday with an address titled “Knowing Susan B.Anthony: The Stories We Tell of Life,” given by keynote speaker Ann Gordon, editor of the Stanton and Anthony Papers Project at Rutgers University and a consultant on the Ken Burns documentary, “Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B.Anthony.” The opening talk was also part of the free Verne Moore Lecture Series sponsored by the Department of History.
The conference had an especially good turn-out this year, mostly due to the diversity of people that were invited to participate.
“We really made a special effort to expand participation for this program,” Director of Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership Nora Bredes said. “We wanted people beyond historians like high schoolers who were studying the suffragette movement at the high school level.”
The program continued in to Friday and Saturday, featuring many sessions including “Public Voices: Class, Ethnicity, and the Roots of Women’s Activism in the Gilded Age” and “Breaking Barriers: 19th-Century Professional Women.” Presenters at the sessions included Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Professor of History and Women’s Studies at Rutgers University Nancy Hewitt.
Each session consisted of the presentation of three papers which were then followed by roundtable-style discussions in which audience members were invited to comment on and ask questions about the papers. The inclusion of high school students as well as graduate students and professionals like Lynn Scherr of ABC news “created a really neat group of participants who had really interesting questions,” Bredes said.
Attendees of the conference were also encouraged to participate in optional off-site activities which included a tour of The Susan B. Anthony House and Preservation District.
To also commemorate the anniversary, Huth has prepared an exhibition of letters, photographs and memorabilia compiled from the library’s extensive Anthony and woman’s movement collections. The exhibit – which opened on March 13, the anniversary of Anthony’s death – and continues through August 31 is titled “Celebrating ‘A Heroic Life’: 1820-1906.” The exhibit is located on the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections in Rush Rhees Library on the River Campus and is free and open to the public. Lepore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.