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Annual Gathering Celebrates Susan B. Anthony's 200th Birthday
By Jeff Snoonian, iBerkshires Correspondent
03:58AM / Monday, February 17, 2020
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Susan Prindle Cooper, left, Susan Anthony Holland, Lucy Anthony Czaja and Eric and Patricia Anthony.

Deb Burns leads the crowd in several singalongs of music from Susan B. Anthony's era.
ADAMS, Mass. — Upwards of 200 people serenaded Susan B. Anthony on the occasion of her 200th birthday on Sunday.
 
The anniversary event at the Adams Free Library, sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum and the Adams Historical Society, annually recognizes the famed civil rights and suffrage pioneer who was born on East Road on Feb. 15, 1820.
 
The celebration falls in a year that will be marked by several events commemorating not only Anthony's bicentennial but also the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the United States. Anthony long advocated for women's right to vote but died 14 years before the passage of the 19th Amendment that made it a constitutional right.
 
One of the goals is to increase voter turnout for the upcoming local election through the Vote for Susan Project, an initiative of the Adams Suffrage Centennial Celebration Committee.
 
The Vote for Susan Project has lined up some new ways to motivate, support, and recognize voters. There will be a hop-on, hop-off van to take voters to the polls. Voters will be given a special sticker proclaiming 'I voted for Susan,' which will also entitle them to rewards offered by Adams merchants.
 
The students of St. Stanislaus Kostka School put together a video of several of them wishing Anthony a happy birthday and offering her her favorite flower, a yellow rose. 
 
The museum's executive director, Cassandra Peltier, along with St. Stan's kindergarten teacher and the museum's high school volunteer program head Kristen Demeo, announced the formation and first recipient of the newly created "Organize, Agitate, Educate Scholarship." The scholarship's name comes from one of Anthony's most familiar refrains. It will go to a high school student who shows a commitment to community service and volunteerism.
 
Demeo explained the program's roots and what it hopes to accomplish.
 
"For the past two years, we've begun a partnership with Hoosac Valley High School and the Honor Society. Once you're inducted into that as a junior you must put in 10 hours of community service. This year we had nine students from Hoosac Valley and one of them was Malina Ziaja (the inaugural recipient)," she said. "This year all nine of them accumulated 135 hours of service.
 
Demeo said Ziaja actually began her volunteering four years ago and worked faithfully in the Anthony museum gift shop every Sunday. 
 
"She was also a docent at the museum. Between those four years she accumulated 200 hours of service," she said. "We thank her for that. We are very grateful to have students like Malina who are the next generation for instilling the powers that women can carry."
 
Ziaja was on a school trip to the state of Florida and unable to attend but she sent a video message of thanks that is posted on the museum's website.
 
A big part of the program was dedicated to music and singalongs of 19th-century music from Anthony's era. Local musician Deb Burns not only led the singalongs but explained how music played a vital role in the suffrage movement.
 
"Singing was a big part of the suffragist movement. It was a way of bringing people together and sometimes a way of just making noise and getting noticed," she explained. "But the songs had to be easy to remember. Anthony liked to use 'safe' words in them so they wouldn't scare people off. Words like home and mother and baby."
 
Burns said this was done to make the men feel more comfortable with the idea of women being able to vote. She said the suffragists did not want to come off as radicals even though that is indeed what they were. All this in aid of convincing the only eligible voters, men, to vote to give women the same right.
 
The Anthony Duo, made up of Eric Anthony, an Anthony family descendant, and his wife, Patricia, provided music in the form of guitar and flute for the afternoon and also a little history lesson. Patricia's anecdote about an incident in Anthony's home shined a light on her work on behalf of minorities as well as women.
 
"There was someone who was supposed to be helping one of the black women, and this woman would not type for her, she said, 'I'm not in the habit of doing so!' So Susan firmly, but I'm sure in a very nice way, escorted her out of the home," Anthony told the crowd.
 
The Birthplace Museum was made possible through the efforts of Rochester, N.Y., resident Carol Crossed. After being born in Adams, Anthony spent the bulk of her life in the Upstate New York city on Lake Ontario, where her home is also a museum. Although Crossed purchased the property on East Road herself, she went on to organize a group of dedicated Rochesterians who raised money to renovate it into the showplace and education center it is today and also maintain a healthy endowment for future projects.
 
Museum board members Kathy Peters and Lynn Lewandowski said none of this would have happened if not for Crossed's efforts.
 

A miniature of the bronze statue of Anthony to be installed at the Town Common was on display.
"She bought the house. She has been a longtime supporter of feminism and Susan B. so when she heard the house was up for sale, she jumped on it. After she bought it she grabbed a bunch of people from the Rochester area and said, 'What do you think of this?'" Peters said. "We were all on board and also from Susan's stomping ground so it made perfect sense for us."
 
"I always wondered what would've happened if Carol didn't buy that house. Somebody could have bought it and done who knows what to it. We're so grateful for Carol for the vision she had," Lewandowski said.
 
Peltier was thrilled with the turnout in the library's historic Memorial Hall and looks forward to what is to come in a year full of celebrations.
 
"I'm amazed at the turnout even though I shouldn't be given how important her work was. It was very heartening to see the room full and feel the energy. The scholarship is so exciting as well. A couple of board members from Rochester suggested it at a meeting and we all just immediately said yes," she said. "Since I took this job, I've thought it's been really important for the museum to become a participant in the community. Since I grew up in the Berkshires I want to figure out where the museum can help out."
 
The event ended with the entire hall full of people singing, "Happy Birthday." 
 
For more information on upcoming events for the Susan B, Anthony celebration, visit www.celebratesuffrage.org.
 
     
Editor's note: Edited to remove a quote by museum director Cassandra Peltier's on voting that was actually read from the Vote for Susan Project and to add that students from the birthday video included last-minute additions from St. Agnes' School of Dalton and Boy Scout Troop 8 of Pittsfield.
 
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