A new tradition has sprung up around a famous headstone in Rochester, N.Y. In the days leading up to and following an election, the grave marker in Mount Hope Cemetery sprouts a fresh coat of “I Voted” stickers. The grave marks the final resting place of one of the most famous suffragists in American history, Susan B. Anthony.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren told the Associated Press on Monday that pasting stickers on Anthony’s grave has become a “rite of passage for many citizens.” The cemetery normally closes at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. But Warren said that Mount Hope Cemetery will remain open until 9 p.m. on Election Day, to reflect the historic inclusion of Democrat Hillary Clinton as the first woman atop the presidential ticket of a major U.S. political party.
(Lights will be installed at the cemetery, but after-dusk visitors are advised to bring flashlights.)
Anthony died 100 years ago, more than a decade before she could have legally voted. Matters of legislation did not keep her from the polls. On Nov. 5, 1872, Anthony cast a ballot for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election, after she was able to convince the Rochester election inspectors to allow her to vote.
In a letter to another suffragist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Anthony wrote of her success later in the day. “Well I have been & gone & done it!!—positively voted the Republican ticket—strait this a.m. at 7 O’clock,” she said. “If only now—all the women suffrage women would work to this end of enforcing the existing constitution—supremacy of national law over state law—what strides we might make this winter.”
The victory did not last. Within two weeks of voting, she was arrested by a United States deputy marshal. The young marshal, as she told it to a May 1873 meeting of the National Women’s Suffrage Association, “hemmed and hawed” until she “demanded that I should be arrested properly,” in the way the deputy would arrest another man.
In the months leading up to her trial, she stumped across counties in Upstate New York. “It was we, the people, not we, the white male citizens, nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed this Union,” Anthony said in her New York address. “And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people — women as well as men.”
Anthony died in March 1906. Fourteen years later, in August 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified.
Some 90 years later, the pilgrimage to Anthony’s gravestone on Election Day began, possibly as recently as 2014, according to the Smithsonian magazine.
The idea struck a chord with voters as far away as Maryland. “Ever since I first found out about people putting their ‘I Voted’ stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s grave, it has been on my bucket list to do the same,” Elissa Blattman told ABC News on Monday. Blattman drove with her mother 350 miles from Rockville, Md., to New York.
Tuesday will not be the first time that the gravestone will be honored with stickers this year. About 30 voters pasted their labels on the tombstone in April, after New York’s primary.
“It was definitely like I was putting it on her lapel, like, ‘This one’s for you, Susan, here you go,’ ” visitor Brianne Wojtesta said to The Washington Post at the time. The cemetery fully embraced the practice, as it told The Post in April.
The fight for women’s right to vote has echoed in the 2016 election cycle more than once. In October, Twitter users launched an impassioned defense of the 19th Amendment in the face of rumors (although likely exaggerated) that some Trump supporters wanted to repeal it. Some Clinton supporters have worn white, a color associated with the suffrage movement, to the polls.
Clinton, too, wore a white pantsuit when she accepted the Democratic nomination in late July and again in October to the third presidential debate — a sartorial choice by many as a reference to the suffrage movement, and one echoed by the all-white outfits of Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice-presidential candidate, and Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress.
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