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.
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.