New York State VoteTilla Celebration

Celebrating Susan B. Anthony and Woman Suffrage

What an exciting week it was in upstate New York as VoteTilla made its way from Seneca Falls to Rochester. I met up with the canal boats on a gorgeous day in Fairport (my hometown) and had a chance to greet several old friends who were traveling with the fleet in costume.

In addition to all the excellent programming done by VoteTilla itself, the libraries and town historical societies put on wonderful programs, including debates, author signings, children’s activities, and more. I had the privilege of presenting my reenactment of Susan B. Anthony to full houses at both the Fairport and Pittsford libraries. Thanks to all those who attended and asked great questions! And special thanks to Vicki Masters Profitt and Mary Ann

August Programs:

  • Saturday, August 12, Arnett Branch Library, “Failure is Impossible,” noon
  • Tuesday, August 29, 2017 Pittsford Seniors Lunch, “Failure is Impossible,” noon

 

 

Susan B. Anthony comes to life at VoteTilla

Join me as I portray Susan B. Anthony as part of the Votetilla celebration next week! Bring your school-age kids for living history!

Votetilla is a weeklong celebration of New York State’s ratification of the 19th (Susan B. Anthony) Amendment in 1917. I love that this event actually occurs on boats on the Erie Canal, since that is how the Anthony family arrived in New York State in 1845.

How Votetilla Works

Sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House and numerous other organizations, the boats get underway in Seneca Falls, the birthplace of women’s rights, and stop in numerous canal towns (including Fairport and Pittsford). After disembarking in Rochester, It culminates with a festive street parade to the Susan B. Anthony House on Madison Street.

I enjoy re-enacting Susan and have been doing it for more than 20 years, ever since I volunteered at her house as a docent. This talk covers the highlights of her life including her illegal vote and trial and her relationship with Frederick Douglass. Enjoy the talk against a wonderful backdrop of  authentic 19th century images.

Centennial Edition of Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All

In 1994, I published a children’s biography of Susan by the name of Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All. Watch this space for a special centennial edition with updates to commemorate the 19th amendment granting women the vote across all the states in the U.S.

Male Counterpart of Susan B. Anthony?


How similar was Susan B. Anthony to her brother Daniel? Why should serious students of our famous suffragist take note of him?

Despite the times Daniel went on trial for murder during a street fight, suffered court-martial, and was accused on horse-stealing, Susan admired her oldest brother D.R.. According to her authorized biography by Harper, (p. 1339),

She had the most profound admiration for his commanding intellect, his business ability, his courage, aggressiveness and determination, and a strong pride in his achievements and the place he had made for himself in the history of his adopted State. But far deeper than this was her love for him because of his long years of devotion to her . . . . She felt that always and under all circumstances she could depend on him for whatever she needed….

Did she always feel that way? When I consider that she she made this comment about him late in life, I have to wonder. There were surely moments when she agonized at the scrapes he got into during his younger years. (For example, there was no way to excuse his horse thefts.) Remember that Harper wrote this shortly after D.R.’s death at the age of 80. By then, Susan had the accumulated wisdom and tolerance of hindsight.

Two Apples From the Same Family Tree

Susan’s affection and respect for her brother Daniel Read Anthony demonstrates why he deserves more than a nod from people with a serious interest in the famous suffragist. Yes, they had many differences. He was male, she female. He married, while she remained single. He made his home in Leavenworth, KS while she made hers in Rochester, NY. He had a terrible temper while she could be quite diplomatic. Nevertheless, reflecting Susan’s generous viewpoint in old age, Harper sweeps away all these contrasts with this comparison of the two siblings:

He was much more like her than was any other member of the family and their similarity of characteristics had long been a matter of public comment. (ibid)

 

Taking Harper at face value, she implied the following: if you want to know a male counterpart of Susan B. Anthony, look to Daniel Read Anthony.

Some readers will be aghast at this comparison. Comments?

 

Historical fiction: when the research trail goes cold

Last time we discussed two kinds of historical fiction:

  • historical-era fiction that uses a few props from a previous timeframe as a general backdrop for fictional characters, and
  • fact-based historical fiction that contains authentic details from books, newspapers, and artifacts that reference real people who lived and breathed. This type of writing also brings in popular social movements, architecture, music, literature, technology, and fashion. Moving beyond the available printed materials, I also love to walk the actual streets where my characters spent their days.

Balancing Truth and Imagination in Historical Fiction

One I’ve done the research and mapped out the known events, it’s time to weave in some imaginary details. Here are two examples of when I fictionalize:

  • The trail goes dry and I am left with gaps. I know that a character arrived at a certain place and time–for example, D.R. Anthony married Anna Osborn on Martha’s Vineyard in 1864– but have no idea how or why. So I fashion a courtship that is plausible, based on what I know of his character, preferences, current interests, and financial situation.
  • The factual record gives too many examples of certain activities in a character’s life and none of other important aspects. For example, although D.R. Anthony was involved in several major fires and numerous shootouts, I do not report every one of those episodes. If I did, there would be no room to develop his life as a family man or strong supporter of his sister Susan’s activities. (She frequently used his home as a base to campaign for woman suffrage.) To round out the picture of the man’s everyday, private life, it behooves me to fill in the cracks of reported events with snippets of pure fiction. However, even in these most creative moments I try to match documented thought and speech patterns.

For another take on this fascinating genre of literature, click here.

 

Susan LaFlesche Picotte built upon Susan B.’s foundation

Susan LaFlesche Picotte, a Nebraska  doctor and and reformer, had credentials that wowed me and reminded of Susan B. Anthony. Google saluted her yesterday; Continue reading

Was Emily Dickinson as miserable as film suggests?

The film  A Quiet Passion did not serve up the Emily Dickinson I know.  Having read some biographies of Dickinson as well as her poetry, I have to say that the movie seemed pretty one-sided in portraying her life as one of angst and frustration. Continue reading

The Anthonys’ Quaker Roots

 

Quaker Meeting House, Adams. Photo by Jeanne Gehret

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of presenting “All for Suffrage: Susan B. Anthony’s Kin” at Susan’s birthplace museum in Adams, MA, near the border of New York State.

After my presentation, my friend and I received a private tour by Adams Historical Society president Eugene Michalenko of the East Hoosuk Quaker Meetinghouse not far from Susan’s home. That is where Susan’s Aunt Hannah Hoxie (her father’s sister) sat on the “high seat” sharing spiritual insights during meetings. Hannah was regarded by the congregation as a gifted speaker in an era when women outside of Quakerism rarely spoke in public.

The high seat turned out to be on the top row of pews facing the congregation, nearest the center. Hannah’s central position connotes some importance. Measuring about 45×45 feet, the building features separate doors for men and women, who held their own meetings and kept separate records.

Once inside, a movable partial wall divides the two sides, with women and children sitting on the side with a huge open fireplace. (How kind those Quaker gentlemen were!) The dividing wall was removed during worship; thus, Hannah could be seen (and heard) by both men and women.

The Meetinghouse website includes more photos and describes many tenets of Quaker beliefs, including their opposition to war. Annually Daniel Anthony, Susan’s father, greeted the taxman by telling him that he refused to support a government that wages war and if he must extract the tax, he should riffle through Anthony’s wallet and take it himself.

Later, Susan’s brother D.R. Anthony ran afoul of Quaker pacificism when he killed a rival publisher in a streetfight in Leavenworth. By that time, the Anthonys belonged to the Rochester, NY Meeting, and a delegation wrote to D.R. questioning his adherence to the beliefs of his ancestors. Read more about that conflict in my book The Truth About Daniel, published in January.