by Jeanne Gehret


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an old woman and a young one
Susan B. Anthony with Rachel Foster Avery

For those of us interested in the origins of women’s equality, the University of Rochester has chosen Women’s Equality Day to announce a new collection of Susan B. Anthony letters that will give us all cause to celebrate.

The University of Rochester collection contains letters to Rachel Foster Avery, besides many other artifacts. It’s one of the best places to read between the lines of Susan”s newsworthy public life and her daily dealings with family, which often went unpublicized.

Working mothers and others

Rachel, a young working mother, was the recipient of these Susan B. Anthony letters. She was also one of Susan’s most important lieutenants. Rachel’s father believed that women and men should receive equal pay for equal work. This was a tenet that Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton heartily espoused.

Today, Women’s Equality Day, it’s fitting to remember that women have always worked, both inside and outside the home. Compared to the time of Susan B. Anthony and her sister-in-law Annie (the ultimate hostess*), women can earn money in many more fields. However, they seldom enjoy the full economic benefits that working men achieve. For more on this, look at the Ten Best and Worst States for Gender Equality. 

The U of R was always important to Susan. In 1900, she put up her own life insurance policy to get women into the University of Rochester. The strain of that campaign caused her to have a stroke. Read about it in my biography entitled Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All.

*According to Susan’s diaries and census records, for extended periods Anna’s Kansas home with D.R. Anthony housed Susan B. Anthony, Hannah Anthony Mosher (who died there) and her family, and Anna’s brother John Osborn. Some of these visits lasted six months or more.

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