story and photos by Laurel C. Wemett
A life-size bronze statue in Seneca Falls commemorates the historic moment when Amelia Bloomer introduced Susan B. Anthony to Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851. Since 1999, “When Anthony Met Stanton” has served as a reminder of the 50-year collaboration between these two influential women who significantly advanced women’s rights.
Now is an ideal time to visit this public sculpture on East Bayard Street near Spring Street – as this year, New York State celebrates the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. New York was one of the first states in the country to pass legislation extending the right to vote to women – three years before the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution made it possible for women to vote in all states.
“When Anthony Met Stanton” is widely embraced in the town of Seneca Falls, known as the home of women’s rights. The image of the statue appears on everything from signage directing visitors to landmarks like the National Women’s Hall of Fame to brochures and souvenirs. The statue was funded and presented by the Governor’s Commission Honoring the Achievements of Women. It was unveiled and dedicated in 1999.
Town of Junius resident Doris Wolf, a community-minded individual and former newspaper reporter, who is actually related to Anthony, hoped the statue would serve as a tangible reminder of Celebrate ’98, the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the first Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls in 1848. “Most people thought Anthony and Stanton met at the Convention,” she says. However, while Stanton did attend the 1848 convention, Anthony was then teaching in Canajoharie and involved in other reform movements.
It was when Anthony visited Seneca Falls to hear an anti-slavery lecture in May 1851 that a chance encounter led to an introduction to Stanton. The exact location of the meeting is unknown, and over time the area has been altered. Given that Amelia Bloomer lived on East Bayard Street and Stanton’s home was on Washington Street, the statue’s location on the south side of the Cayuga-Seneca Canal seems fitting.
“The statue of the meeting in Seneca Falls is a great addition to our cultural heritage,” says Deborah Hughes, executive director of the Susan B. Anthony Museum in Rochester. “It captures a moment when the energy of three powerful leaders of the women’s movement first came together. What brought them together was not women’s suffrage, but their passionate commitment to ending slavery in these United States. Though they did not always agree about strategies or even some particulars, they continued to feed and engage one another’s passion for social justice for the next five decades.”
Sculptor A. E. Ted Aub, a professor of art and architecture at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, was commissioned to create the statue. Doris Wolf approached him for the project, as she had long-admired his statue on the campus of Elizabeth Blackwell – who graduated from Geneva Medical College to become the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States.
“The statue interprets the moment – actually the moment before – showing the hands about to touch – suggesting that you, as the viewer, are there in the moment,” Aub explains. Amelia Bloomer, journalist and editor of The Lily, a newspaper for women, stands in the center between her two friends. Only she is shown speaking, as Anthony and Stanton lock eyes. Anthony strides toward Stanton who leans in to greet her.
The sculptor researched fashions and photographs from the time period for authenticity. Bloomer wears the comfortable style of pants (bloomers) for which she is well-known. Stanton appears hatless and thinner in this mid-19th century interpretation than she does in photographs from the end of the century. She also wears “Turkish” pants under her skirt and looks less formal than the corseted Anthony.
The sculpture stands near the street and low to the ground, so visitors can pose for pictures and appreciate the lessons in its imagery and text in the plaque. Aub made many symbolic choices in “When Anthony Met Stanton” to reflect on, such as the stance of each statue, and the circular figure-eight that the bend in their arms creates – a symbol of women and infinity. The book in Stanton’s hand suggests her knowledge and role as an intellectual force.
Aub explains, “Stanton was the message and Anthony was the voice of the movement.”
To see photos of the “When Anthony Met Stanton” dedication in 1999, Aub’s sculpture of Elizabeth Blackwell, and his other works, visit tedaub.com.
The 1851 meeting between Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is described in Stanton’s own words and quoted in Anthony’s 1898 biography:
“Walking home with the speakers, who were my guests, we met Mrs. Bloomer with Miss Anthony on the corner of the street waiting to greet us. There she stood with her good, earnest face and genial smile, dressed in gray delaine, hat and all the same color relieved with pale-blue ribbons, the perfection of neatness and sobriety. I liked her thoroughly from the beginning.”
Anthony’s biographer, Ida Husted Harper, also writes of Anthony’s “long-cherished desire of seeing Elizabeth Cady Stanton” in this excerpt from The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, written at Anthony’s house in Rochester under her supervision.