“Circle circle, dot dot, now I’ve got the cooties shot!” — a necessary elementary school (or maybe middle school, for the late bloomers) precaution against the cooties infection, contracted by coming in contact with the opposite sex.
As terrifying as it may have been to know that cooties could attack at any moment, perhaps it was better that we endured our fear of them. This meant that little boys and girls were learning together, which was unfortunately not always the case, including at the collegiate level — even UR was not exempt from sexist division.
19th century women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony did not stand for this separation though, and in 1898 she helped to raise $50,000 for UR’s endowment (including $2,000 of her own life insurance) in order to please the Trustees of the day and convince them to convert the University into a coeducational institution.
The Susan B. Anthony Legacy Dinner is held in remembrance of Anthony’s birthday, and in honor of her fight for women to be able to attend the University. The dinner is put together with contributions from the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership, the UR’s Women’s Club and the Office of the Dean of Students, is held as an annual event in which influential women are awarded for their inspiring work.
The honors include the Susan B. Anthony Scholarships, given this year to sophomore Melika Butcher and junior Vicky Baudin; the Susan B. Anthony prize, received by Take Five scholar Lauren Yu, the Fannie Bigelow Prize, presented to seniors Maya Dukmasova and Bridget Lenkiewicz; the Jane Plitt Award, given to sophomore Hilary Wermers; and the Susan B. Anthony Lifetime Achievement Award, which was won this year by Mary Huth.
This year’s dinner was held on Thursday, Feb. 3 in the May Room of Wilson Commons. It began with a reception in the Bridge Lounge for the awardees, complete with cheese cubes and punch. The group then gathered at 6 p.m. to hear Vocal Point, the only all-female a capella group on campus, perform. Bredes then welcomed the guests with the story of Anthony’s fight for coeducation. The evening continued with a PowerPoint presentation highlighting each award recipient, as well as some historical points about the University and concluded with dinner, the presentation of the awards and scholarships and a keynote address from former ABC news correspondent Lynn Sherr.
“I think it is a really special recognition…[it] lifts up and shows to a wider world the qualities of confidence, perseverance and commitment to the community,” Nora Bredes, Director of the Anthony Center, said.
Choosing the recipients of these awards is no easy task — in fact, it is a process that lasts essentially the entirety of the fall semester.
“Each applicant is given careful and due consideration,” Ed Feldman, Assistant Director for Leadership Programs and chair of the selection committee, noted. “[But] anyone who’s nominated is deserving [of the awards].”
After students are nominated and fill out the required application, they are ranked on a scale of one to four by a widely diverse group of people from across campus.
The selection committee then meets in person in the second week of December to do a final discussion and vote on who should receive each award. This year, there were 90 nominations sent out and 43 applicants for the awards.
Despite this lengthy process, the impact that these awards, as well as the event in general, have on the students and on the University appears to be well worth the effort.
“I am honored and inspired at what these women do,” Feldman said.
“They’re outstanding young women,” Marianne Virgilio, scholarship chair for the UR Women’s Club agreed.
The importance of this chance at recognition does not get lost among the student recipients either.
“I was really glad to get some recognition,” Hilary Wermers, recipient of the Jane Plitt award. She worked as a co-President of Women’s Caucus, said. “It’s really nice to be honored for the work that you do.”
Although many students are recognized at this event, we cannot forget the Susan B. Anthony Lifetime Achievement Award presented this year to Mary Huth, who worked at UR for 44 years as the Women’s Studies Bibliographer and, most recently, in the Rare Books and Special Collections Department of Rush Rhees Library.
“I was very honored and it was very nice to have my work at the library recognized… it was very gratifying,” Huth said.
Huth has done a great deal of work with the library in building a collection of materials on Susan B. Anthony. She even went so far as to re-enact Anthony’s funeral at a recent event.
“She’s a very special person and in a way the keeper of all things Susan B. Anthony,” Virgilio said. “I personally admire the work that she’s done.”
Sherr was perhaps a particularly appropriate speaker for the event, as she has a close connection to Huth. When writing her book, “Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words,” Sherr consistently went to Huth for assistance.
“I think [we chose her] both because of her friendship to Mary, as well as her expertise,” Bredes said.
In her speech, Sherr talked about the importance of knowing facts from fiction in journalism and in academia and knowing not to take rumor and politic spin and make it into truth. The dinner is about more than just awards and speeches, though.
“It reinforces a commitment to live up this legacy [of Susan B. Anthony],” Bredes noted. “[It] connects us to a really wonderfulpiece of history.”
“It’s an evening of celebration and inspiration,” Virgilio agreed. “[It] reinforces my belief in the University.”
Goldin is a member of
the class of 2013.