Happy Birthday, Susan B. Anthony!

I encourage every American woman to pause on  February 15 to say happy birthday to Susan B. Anthony. This remarkable woman was born in 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts, and grew up to lead a cohort of women to advocate for rights that we often take for granted today.

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The Anthonys’ Quaker Roots

Jeanne Gehret in winter coat in open doorway of wood building
Jeanne Gehret entering Quaker Meetinghouse in Adams, MA

Susan B. Anthony’s Quaker roots came to the forefront when I spoke at Susan’s birthplace museum in Adams, MA, near the border of New York State.

After my talk, 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.

Susan B. Anthony’s Quaker role model

The high seat turned out to be on the top row of pews facing the congregation, nearest the center. Aunt 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.

weathered two-story building with two doors side by side
Quaker Meeting House, Adams. Photo by Jeanne Gehret

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.

Susan’s sister Hannah was named after Aunt Hannah.

The Meetinghouse website includes more photos and describes many tenets of Quaker beliefs, including their opposition to war. With these principles in mind, Susan’s father Daniel developed a unique way to pay his taxes. Each year, he held out his wallet when greeting the taxman. Then Daniel said he did not support a government that waged war and that the collector must extract money from the wallet himself.

Later, Susan’s brother D.R. Anthony ran afoul of Quaker pacificism when he killed a rival publisher in a streetfight in Leavenworth. Although he had left the Rochester where his family prayed, he was still a member of the Rochester meeting. Not long after the fight, Rochester Quakers wrote to question his adherence to the beliefs of his ancestors. Read more about that conflict in my novel The Truth About Daniel, published in January.

Reminiscing with Susan

remininscing Susan 800Join me at the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum next Sunday, February 15 for her birthday celebration. We’ll have a festive gathering and refreshments, and I will present “Reminiscing With Susan.”

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.




Susan B.’s Quilt Comes Home

quilters at frame resizeThe 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

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Joining the Quilt Layers

Susan’s original LeMoyne Star quilt now rests in the vault of the Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC), safely preserved but too fragile to be on constant display.

Sarah LeCount of RMSC shows original Susan B. Anthony quilt to Carol Crossed and Berkshire quilters. Photo by Jeanne Gehret

Sarah LeCount of RMSC shows original Susan B. Anthony quilt to Carol Crossed and Berkshire quilters. Photo by Jeanne Gehret

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Susan B. Anthony Family Origins: Massachusetts


Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum kitchen. Photo by Jeanne Gehret

Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum kitchen. Photo by Jeanne Gehret

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.
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