How Would You Impress Susan B. Anthony?

This guest post comes from Erika Howard. Howard is a senior at the University of Rochester, an editor at the Campus Times, and President of the Undergraduate Council for Gender and Women’s Studies. In her spare time, she is also one of three SBAI student office assistants!

Susan B. Anthony once said, “Any advertising is good. Get praise if possible, blame if you have to. But never stop being talked about.” Lately, the National Susan B. Anthony House & Museum has been talked about a lot—due largely to an original and fun new contest they’ve created on Facebook called “Susan Would B. Impressed,” where participants submit photos of something from their purse (or wallet, or backpack, or briefcase) along with a statement about why this item would impress Susan B. Anthony. The winner of this contest will win an iPad 2, plus a limited edition “Purse With A Purpose” (the $250 handbag inspired by Ms. Anthony’s famous “Alligator Bag”), and a membership to the Susan B. Anthony House for one year. The first runner up will win a $100 Visa gift card.

The contest isn’t over (all submissions are due by November 18th), but it can already be qualified as a success. In the first week, the Susan B. Anthony House doubled its “likes” on Facebook (if you don’t “like” them yet, go do it now!), and the contest has so far been seen by 170,000 Facebook users. However, I personally encourage everyone reading this to submit to the contest, and spread the word to your friends. Not only because it’s supporting a great cause, but because it’s actually quite fun.

There’s something fascinating about looking into your item of choice (for me as a college student, it’s a backpack) and wondering what’s of note within it, and, more importantly, what these items say about you as a person. Would Susan B. proud of anything in my backpack? It’s difficult to say. I sat here for quite a long time pawing through my bag, and for awhile all I could think was… “I need to clean out my backpack.” But then I started thinking about the individual items, and what I could submit to the contest. My voter registration card? My Mirena reminder? I doubt Susan B. Anthony would care about my History of Jazz textbook or my frequent buyer card to a coffee shop.

I had a really strong reaction to this process—there’s something strange about looking into your bag, something you live with, something that literally goes just about everywhere you do, and realizing there’s not much in there that’s personal, or at least something I find personal and interesting enough to consider submitting. This fun and lighthearted contest ended up being a really fascinating exercise, and was well worth the time.

Though I did eventually decide on something—the pins that are on my bag. Anyone who’s seen my backpack knows that it’s covered in pins—I have SBAI ones on there, pins advocating getting tested for STI’s, a pin with male and female underwear on it that says “no matter what you wear, we’ve got you covered” (a reminder that Planned Parenthood offers services for both men and women), and, my personal favorite, a pin that says “Think. Question. Vote.” I keep these pins on my bag as both a personal statement of my beliefs, and as an invitation for questions about them. If someone wants to know the closest place to get condoms or other forms of birth control, they might realize I can tell them. If someone’s curious about what SBAI stands for, it opens up a conversation about a department they might not be familiar with. I even keep extra pins in my backpack, in case anyone really likes them and wants one for themselves. These pins aren’t just decoration (though they do look lovely on my bag), they’re a reminder of what I think is important, and a statement that I’m willing to talk with anyone who’s curious about them. And personally, I think Susan B. Anthony would be happy with this choice to be outspoken about my personal beliefs without saying a word. I know I’m happy with the decision.

About Kaitlin Legg

Former Program Assistant at the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Rochester.
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