Today our nation marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. That day marked a critical turning point in the fight for gender equality and civil rights, as half of the U.S. population immediately gained the constitutional right to vote.
While today’s anniversary will be remembered and celebrated across the country, it should also stir an extra bit of pride in Rochester. After all, as the 19th Amendment wound its way through the Congress and through state legislatures, it was referred to as the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment.”
Given this centennial, we decided to ask Rochester Beacon readers whether our community should do more to honor one of Rochester’s most important historical figures. Specifically, should we rename a major local landmark or institution after Susan B. Anthony?
In all, 133 readers responded. Here are the results:
The poll’s Question 1 asked: “Should a local landmark or institution be renamed to honor Susan B. Anthony?” Eighty-five percent of respondents said “yes,” 15 percent answered “no.”
Question 2 asked: “If you answered “yes” to Question 1, which local landmark or institution should be renamed to honor Susan B. Anthony?” The results were as follows:
- Interstate-490 (within Monroe County) – 23%
- Highland Park – 21%
- Monroe Community College – 14%
- Mt. Hope Cemetery – 7%
- Monroe County – 5%
- Genesee River (within Monroe County) – 1%
- Other – 30%
A wide array of ideas were submitted by those responding “Other.” Suggestions included:
- Main Street (perhaps to “Susan B. Anthony Boulevard”)
- The Public Market
- The Central Library
- Liberty Pole
- County Office Building
- City Hall
- The City of Rochester (to call it Anthony City)
- The Port of Rochester
- High Falls
- Durand Eastman Park
- Maplewood Park
- Convention Center
Finally, Question 3 asked readers to comment on how we might best honor Susan B. Anthony locally, and “what impact it might have both within and outside of the Rochester region.” A sampling of those answers is found at the end of this article.
Overall, even though there was little agreement on which landmark or institution should be renamed for Anthony, a significant majority of respondents favored naming something of importance to Rochester after her. And finding ways to continue to honor Anthony—as well as Frederick Douglass, for whom Rochester’s airport has been renamed—stands to reason.
After all, if the United States decided to build a Mt. Rushmore honoring the most important civil rights leaders of the past 150 years, there is a decent chance that two of the faces on that mountain would belong to long-time Rochester residents. That might be a coincidence, but it nevertheless places a responsibility on today’s Rochesterians to keep these important legacies alive.
Additionally, rather than being known as the city where Eastman Kodak declined, perhaps it would do good things for Rochester’s national image—and self-image—to be known instead as the city that two unparalleled fighters for equality called home.
Comments from survey participants (with some editing for brevity and clarity):
Before the 19th Amendment, over half of the adults in the United States were disenfranchised. It’s fair to say that democracy didn’t truly manifest in this country until 1920. Susan B. Anthony risked herself personally so that we could be a democratic country. Her daring helped us get beyond a republic ruled by a minority of the people. Her name should be known to lovers of democracy worldwide, and I’m so proud that she voted in Rochester. Let’s show our Rochester pride to the world. We changed the world here, and still can.
Given Nathaniel Rochester’s participation in the abomination that was enslaving people, alternate names should be considered for the city of Rochester. Instead, we should consider Anthony City, Douglasstown and Eastmanville, as these three were exemplars of excellence.
Having I-490 named for Susan B. Anthony would enable many people to see it, and appropriate signage could be placed along the highway to inform travelers, both local and others travelling through.
—Stephen L. Gaudioso
To honor the contributions and memory of one of our best known and most significant icons, with ties to Rochester—this would be an attraction for tourists and other visitors as well.
I would rather see the resources needed for this recognition go to the Susan B. Anthony House, where her legacy is being ably interpreted for the world today.
—Elisabeth W. Judson
(Rename) her street, the neighborhood and park with a big ceremony, and lots of dignitaries from the Woman’s Hall of Fame. It will get national attention. There also should be signs on Main Street welcoming people to the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood.
—Sheila Gissin Weinbach
Embed women’s importance to American society by convening a permanent conclave of ALL women holding ANY elective offices in Monroe County (from judges to village and town boards, county legislatures and city council), and task this group with setting and implementing goals such as setting Rochester and Monroe County as national leaders in: 1. female voter turnout; 2. female high school graduation rate; 3. female college admission rate; 4. proportion of females appointed to local company boards of directors; 5. proportion of female-owned businesses; 6. leadership in vigorous prosecutions of domestic and sexual violence crimes committed against females; 7. development of high school and college curriculums and courses teaching the histories of women’s suffrage movements worldwide; 8. raising an endowment to support high school field trips from around the U.S. for students of all genders to visit both Rochester and Seneca Falls to experience and learn the history of Upstate NY’s role in achieving women’s rights in America.
—David A. Lovenheim
Alex Zapesochny is Rochester Beacon publisher.