by Jeanne Gehret

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Black and white hands joined together
Many hands worked together to achieve universal rights.

Susan B. Anthony’s family dinners in Rochester, NY were stimulating events in the mid-nineteenth century. In that humble farmhouse, an enclave of famous writers and abolitionists gathered who had already begun to rock United States history. Among them was abolitionist author Frederick Douglass.

Douglass moved to Rochester in the late 1840s. Soon after, he was welcomed into the liberal-minded circle of Daniel and Lucy Anthony (parents of Susan B.). It was nothing for the Anthonys to entertain 15-20 people at Sunday dinner, and they often sent the farm wagon to bring the Douglass family out for the day. At the time, Douglass was establishing his newspaper and his reputation as an orator. Imagine how much encouragement and assistance he must have received along with his meal.

Join me for a look at the striking statues of Douglass and friend Susan B. Anthony at the square near her home.

Memorable people at the Anthony family dinners

These are some of the great doers and thinkers who gathered there alongside Douglass:

  • Susan B. Anthony, crusader in temperance, abolition, and women’s rights;
  • Daniel Read Anthony, publisher of a radical newspaper entitled Leavenworth Times. His plantation raids on the Missouri border fanned the f lames that began the Civil War.
  • Mary Anthony, Susan’s sister who was the first woman in the Rochester schools to receive equal pay for equal work;
  • Merritt Anthony, who risked his life in Kansas beside John Brown;
  • Isaac and Amy Post, Rochester Quakers and conductors on the Underground Railroad. They also hosted writer Harriet Jacobs, author of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
  • Rhoda DeGarmo, another Quaker friend of the Anthonys. She was one of the fifteen brave women who voted with Susan in the 1872 election
  • William Lloyd Garrison, Boston publisher of the radical antislavery newspaper, The Liberator
  • Wendell Philips, known as “abolition’s golden trumpet” for his speaking abilities

According to Susan’s authorized biography, “every one of these Sunday meetings was equal to a convention . . . each one of these families that gathered…at the Anthony farm could have told where might be found at least one station on the ‘underground railroad.'” (p. 61, Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, Ida Husted Harper)

Though Douglass’s friendship with Susan suffered a serious rift after abolitionists decided to put African-American rights ahead of women’s rights, the two remained lifelong friends.

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