As another presidential election dominates the American consciousness, you’ll see candidates out in the middle of Iowa cornfields, donning hard hats for factory tours in Detroit and eating barbecue in Kansas City. It’s bi-partisan version of the Great American Road Trip.
But you see very few visiting a simple house on Madison Street in Rochester NY. And shame on them all, in every party. Because, with the exception of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, what happened in this modest home in this quiet neighborhood did more to shape politics in the United States than anything else in the country’s 240 years.
It was here in this pleasant three story home where Susan B. Anthony and people like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt, Frederick Douglas worked to ensure that the voices of women, African Americans and all minorities in the United States could be heard on election day.
Susan B. Anthony’s House
Actually, they first had to work to allow women and minorities the right to even speak in public. Susan was once beaten and arrested for doing just that.
She was also arrested in the living room of this home and found guilty of voting in 1872. There’s a plaque in the courthouse in Canandaigua NY where she was tried that reads “This is the place where liberty was denied.”
Susan and her “radical” friends were arrested on many occasions, accused of trying to destroy the sanctity of marriage and of instigating social evils when she suggested that blacks and whites could be educated together.
In the home, you’ll see the dining room table where she and Frederick Douglas often had tea, and the desk at which she composed her speeches and letters of debate. You’ll see her famous alligator purse and the bed in which she died in 1906.
Susan lived long enough to see the “Anthony Amendment” introduced to Congress in 1878, but not long enough for it to be ratified and become law, the 19th Amendment, in 1920. She didn’t live long enough to see Jeannette Pickering Rankin elected as the first woman in Congress in 1916, nor to see Geraldine Ferraro the first woman to be nominated as vice president of the United States in 1984.
Nor did she live long enough for a candidate for president of the United States to visit her home in an attempt to win votes. But those of us who have the privilege of voting today should indeed make an effort to visit Rochester and then get to the polls in November.