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Susan B. Anthony Plaster Relief Medallion Copyrighted by Her Sister
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SUSAN B. ANTHONY. Plaster Bas-Relief Medallion by [Sidney H. Morse], June 1897. 7¾ in. round. 3 x 2 in. brass plate on verso with inscription, “Copyright, June 1897, By Mary S Anthony / Endorsed by the Political Equality Club of Rochester, N.Y.”

Inventory #26052       Price: $3,500

Historical Background
By 1897, Susan B. Anthony was an international celebrity as one of the leaders of the American women’s suffrage movement.

Her sister Mary S. Anthony helped to organize the Women’s Political Club in Rochester, New York, in 1885. The club soon renamed itself the Political Equality Club of Rochester, N.Y., and Mary Anthony served as president from 1892 to 1903.

At its annual meeting on May 6, 1897, the Political Equality Club considered a clay model for a medallion of Susan B. Anthony. The artist, Chicago sculptor Sidney H. Morse, sought the club’s endorsement and offered to reproduce the model in ivory and give the club a percentage of the sales. “After carefully comparing the model with the original, who was present,” the newspaper report of the meeting continued, “it was decided that the likeness was not a good one, and Miss Anthony herself suggested that the club should indorse nothing but the best and proposed the name of a woman sculptor in Washington, whose busts of Mrs. Logan, Miss Anthony and other famous people are the most life-like of any ever produced of the subjects, and that the woman sculptor be given the preference over the man.” Mrs. S. A. West objected to Anthony’s suggestion that the gender of the artist should be considered, believing that “the idea of men and women as distinct and separate should be eliminated.” Those present, including Susan B. Anthony, “heartily concurred” and decided to make the matter competitive.[1]

On June 10, 1897, the Political Equality Club hosted “an entertainment” in the Unitarian Church in Rochester to raise money for the women’s suffrage cause in those states where amendments were pending. After enjoying musical numbers and a farce, the audience learned that the club had accepted and purchased a design for a medallion of Susan B. Anthony submitted by Sidney H. Morse. The club displayed a mounted specimen of the plaster medallion and announced that copies would be available for $1 each. The club hoped “to realize considerable money out of them” because “it was the fond desire of Miss Anthony to leave behind her a permanent fund, the interest from which might be used to push the suffrage work and pay competent people to do this after she has gone.” A Rochester newspaper reported that “the medallions are considered very fine, and Miss Mary Anthony says it is the best likeness ever made of her sister. Many people subscribed for one last evening.” Although many were disappointed that Susan B. Anthony herself was not present, she was spending the week with Elizabeth Cady Stanton reviewing past files for “material to assist them in writing their biographies.” Together Stanton and Anthony had already published between 1881 and 1886 three volumes of History of Woman Suffrage.[2]

As this copy indicates, Club President Mary S. Anthony copyrighted the design for the club, and a week later, a notice appeared in The Woman’s Column that one hundred copies would “at once be made” and offered for sale at $1 each. In September, a notice in the New York Tribune announced that “The Rochester Woman Suffrage Club has prepared and placed on sale attractive medallions of Susan B. Anthony. The medallions are nine inches in diameter and made of plaster, delicately tinted. The likeness is said to be excellent.” Mrs. F. N. West of Rochester served as chair of the Medallion Committee. Mrs. West would “express a medallion to any address” for $1.25.[3]

The State of New York did not grant women the right to vote until November 1917, three years before the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed all American women the right to vote, and more than eleven years after Susan B. Anthony’s death.

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) was born in Massachusetts into a Quaker family that was committed to social equality. She briefly attended a Quaker boarding school in Philadelphia before her family was ruined financially by the Panic of 1837. She then became a teacher at a Quaker boarding school. Her family moved to a farm near Rochester, New York, in 1845. Although she was not involved in the Seneca Falls Convention because she was teaching at a school more than one hundred miles to the East, both her parents and her sister signed the Declaration of Sentiments at the subsequent Rochester Women’s Rights Convention. Anthony began to speak publicly on temperance, abolition, and women’s suffrage. She first met Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) in 1851, and the two became close friends and co-workers in the cause of women’s rights. In 1856, Anthony became the New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society and continued to advocate for women’s rights as well. In 1868, Anthony and Stanton began to publish The Revolution in New York City and published the newspaper for more than two years. One of their bitterest defeats came after the Civil War, when former allies in the abolitionist movement, such as Frederick Douglass, supported the 15th Amendment granting suffrage to freedmen, but not to women. After an 1869 division in the women’s rights movement over the 15th Amendment, Anthony later pursued alliances with conservative women’s suffrage advocates, leading her to endorse the controversial 1890 merger of the two competing organizations into the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Stanton served as president, but Anthony was its effective leader. When Stanton retired in 1892, Anthony succeeded her as president and held the position until 1900. It is estimated that she gave eighty to one hundred speeches a year on behalf of the suffrage cause. In 1876, she and Stanton began writing a history of the women’s suffrage movement. The first three volumes of the six-volume work appeared between 1881 and 1886. After Stanton’s death in 1902, with the assistance of Ida Husted Harper, Anthony published the fourth volume, covering the period from 1883 to 1900. Harper herself published the last two volumes, covering 1900 to 1920, in 1922, after Anthony’s death.

Mary S. Anthony (1827-1907) was born in New York and was the youngest surviving sister of Susan B. Anthony. Raised as a Quaker, she was well-educated and began working as a teacher at age seventeen, before moving with her family to a farm near Rochester, New York. She returned to teaching in 1854 and taught in the Rochester public schools for 27 years, before being promoted to principal. She retired from her position as principal in 1883. Anthony was active in the women’s rights movement and attended the Rochester Women’s Rights Convention of 1848 with her parents, and with them signed the Declaration of Sentiments. In 1872, she was arrested with her sister and several other women for voting illegally in Rochester. She joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1873, and in 1893, she became corresponding secretary of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association. She never married, and on her death from leukemia, she was buried in Rochester next to her sister Susan, who had died less than a year earlier.

Sidney H. Morse (1833-1903) was born in Rochester, New York, and worked with his uncle in the marble business in Connecticut, where he learned to cut and carve in marble. He graduated from Antioch College and became a Unitarian minister. From 1866 to 1872, he founded and edited in Boston The Radical, a monthly Unitarian periodical devoted to free thought and religion. When he could no longer sustain The Radical, Morse became a lecturer and a sculptor, with studios first in Boston and then in Quincy. Later, he had a studio in Buffalo, New York. In addition to this bas-relief bust of Anthony, Morse made busts of Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Parker, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Lucretia Mott, among others.

Condition: A very clean example, retaining the original suspension loop.

[1] Democrat and Chronicle(Rochester, New York), May 7, 1897, 12:5.

[2]Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), June 11, 1897, 11:1.

[3]The Woman’s Column (New York and Boston), June 19, 1897, 4:3; New York Tribune, September 15, 1897, 5:3.

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