The Rochester Woman Who Changed History
The Rochester Woman Who Changed History
The roots of women’s history run deep through the city of Rochester, NY, and the Finger Lakes region. Every year, hundreds of voters line up alongside Mount Hope Cemetery to visit Susan B. Anthony’s grave and to place their “I Voted” stickers on her gravestone as a tribute and a thank you for pioneering women’s suffrage in the late 1800s.
On the other side of the Genesee River, Susan B. Anthony’s home at 17 Madison Street was purchased by the Rochester Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1945 to create a museum.
“During the summer tourism season, our visitors come from all across the country and from around the world,” said Deborah Hughes, president and CEO of the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House in Rochester.
Hughes said she’s noticed that many of the visitors were excited to check the National Historic Landmark off their bucket lists.
“More than 95,000 sites in the country at nationally registered sites, but only a small percentage are National Historic Landmarks – to be a National Historic Landmark, the place has to be all about the person that really made a change in history,” Hughes said.
Susan B. Anthony’s advocacy for labor rights, abolition, equal pay for equal work, and the women’s suffrage movement has made her name well-known globally.
“She was a great advocate on lots of issues that are still so relevant today,” Hughes said.
Before it was the museum Rochester knows today, the Susan B. Anthony House was a mecca for social activists. In the 1890s, when Anthony was president of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association, Hughes said this house was the headquarters.
“They had so many women working in that house, working for a cause, there just wasn’t enough room. So, they raised the roof and added a third story,” Hughes said. “To me, every inch of that third floor is all about human rights – because that’s why it was built.”
When you visit the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, you will notice that it almost looks like a small, regular house. Only a few things are kept in cases because the tour is meant to feel like you’re stopping by to visit the women who were hard at work on Madison Street in the late 19th century.
“There’s a certain energy about the space, and people comment on that. When we’re giving a tour, it’s not unusual for somebody to tear up or say that they got goosebumps,” Hughes said.
The tour takes about 45 minutes, and all visitors must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter. Tickets cost $15 per adult, $10 for senior citizens age 62+ and active military, and $5 for students with an ID card. Visitors are encouraged to visit the museum’s website to check for available tours and make a reservation. AAA members save 10% on the standard gate admission price.
“People leave feeling inspired, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Hughes said. “We say, ‘Susan B. Anthony changed the world and you can, too!’ But we don’t know what inspires people, or what they want to change. … We want to inspire people, so if they see something that is wrong, they want to right it.”
After your tour, you can walk to the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center, the Genesee River, or even take a walk down Heritage Trail, a 1.25-mile walking path that leads to 15 points of historical significance, starting with the “Let’s Have Tea” sculpture at Susan B. Anthony Square, then to Old City Hall at the halfway point and ending at Rundel Memorial Library and the Rochester Historical Society downtown.
“There’s a whole college learning experience when you come to Rochester,” Hughes said.
Whether you’re visiting for a day trip, a weekend, or a full week, you won’t run out of things to do! In addition to Rochester’s historical charms, visitors can enjoy the High Falls and stop for refreshments at any of the many breweries, distilleries, and wineries that have populated the Rochester area.
For AAA members that love art and culture, check out AAA discounts for the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, the Downstairs Cabaret Theatre, and The Strong Museum of Play for families with kids of all ages.