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.
Every year the Museum celebrates Susan’s birth with a party near the house where she was born in Adams, Massachusetts. Nestled at the base of Mount Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts, this home is where Susan was raised in a loving Quaker household. Her family of eight frequently shared their home with others including her maternal grandparents and as many as 11 young women who worked in her father’s mill. I like to look out the bedroom window at the mountain whose heights inspired her for as long as she lived.
The Birthplace Museum celebrates the regional and familial influences that shaped this woman who gave her life to three reforms: woman suffrage, abolition, and temperance. The home includes many textiles and furnishings appropriate to the 1820s, as well as literature and other memorabilia associated with her later career.
The Legler Barn Stitchers (pictured on this post) of Lenexa, Kansas were an excellent choice to complete the replica of Susan B.’s quilt. They had plenty of experience and provided a living history display as they quilted in the historic structure. Built in 1864, the Legler Barn
The Anthony story begins in Adams, Massachusetts at the family homestead and Friends’ Cemetery. That home represents a fairly stable period in the relationship between the Anthonys and the Quakers.