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Today at the MHS I attending a brown-bag luncheon seminar with one of our current longterm fellows, Lisa Tetrault, who is researching the way that American feminist creation stories (particularly the centered on the Seneca Falls Convention) were created and contested in the late 19th century.

In the post-presentation discussion, we were talking about the current political implications of interpreting women’s and feminist history, when she happened to mention that an anti-choice group has purchased Susan B. Anthony’s birthplace in Adams, Massachusetts, and turned it into a house museum. Why? Apparently, Anthony–who was, indeed, against abortion in her own very different political and social context–has become a pro-life icon. Rochester, New York, the site of another of Anthony’s homes, is, Lisa tells me, peppered with anti-choice billboards targeting the women’s history pilgrims who travel to upstate New York to visit the site.

Susan B. Anthony’s birthday is February 15th. At the Susan B. Anthony house in Rochester, NY, guest speaker Susan Faludi, most recently the author of, The Terror Dream, an analysis of gender and the media post-9/11, will be featured at their annual celebration luncheon. The Birthplace of Susan B. Anthony asks us to ponder this question:

We’ve given up our bra burning and hating men, but how would Anthony and her colleagues react to one unpopular view, particularly among youth, that we support abortion on demand?

It’s easy to get pissy about advocates of anti-choice policies asserting their “ownership” of one of the historical icons of American feminist history–and believe me, I’m irritated. But the historian part of my brain is fascinated by this one local example of the very political struggle over who narrates history and what version of history gets told.

And I just have to repeat: Susan B. Anthony–Pro-life Icon? That’s frickin’ weird!

image from America’s Library.

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