After they cast their votes in Tuesday’s New York primary, several dozen New Yorkers visited the pioneer of the women’s rights movement.
Throughout the day, they arrived at the grave of Susan B. Anthony in Rochester’s Mount Hope Cemetery. They came to say thank you to the woman who paved the way for them to be able to fulfill their civic right. They took their “I Voted” sticker and pressed it on the tombstone.
Because, in a sense, she had.
Anthony, who led the women’s suffrage movement in the middle of the 19th century, died in 1906 before women were granted the right to vote 14 years later.
“It was definitely like I was putting it on her lapel, like, ‘This one’s for you Susan, here you go,’ ” said Brianne Wojtesta on Wednesday.
Wojtesta visited Anthony’s grave after voting in 2014. There were some flowers and another woman leaving her sticker. It wasn’t a coordinated effort, but a gesture women had informally undertaken in the Rochester area for years. When Wojtesta posted a photo of the tombstone with the two stickers, a friend saw it and suggested that they create a Facebook group to make it an organized event.
She contacted the cemetery to make sure that would be okay, and she said a woman who answered the phone there said it embodied “the very spirit of what cemeteries are for a way to pay homage in an enthusiastic way.”
This year, about 30 people paid their respects to Anthony by offering her their sticker.
“For me it’s the fact that she never got to see it happen,that she worked her entire life for suffrage and died before that happened,” said David M. Shein, the friend who started the Thank You Susan B. Anthony social media page. “From my standpoint people take it for granted, but I think it’s a powerful bit of symbolism to give it to the woman who made it happen. … I feel privileged to be able to do that.”
Anthony spent her life fighting for equality, even voting illegally in 1872, which landed her in jail. On her death bed, she told a friend that it “seems so cruel” to die without ever seeing her life’s work achieved. Still, weeks before she died, she famously declared, “Failure is impossible.”
She was right.
It’s notable that this tribute to Anthony occurred the day before Harriet Tubman was chosen to be the new face of the $20 bill. Anthony was, for a time, the face of the $1 coin.
Also (regardless of personal political preference) notable is that it coincided with a woman winning New York’s primary in her bid to be president — something that would have been unfathomable when Anthony was alive.
“It seems very much like a way to connect that past to the present,” Wojtesta said. “With all the progress we’ve made, sometimes you forget how far we’ve come. It’s a way to remember.”
(Correction: An earlier version had the wrong photo credit.)
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