Susan B. Anthony House becomes polling site for first time ever

Susan B. Anthony House a site of early voting

Susan B. Anthony House a site of early voting

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Over 150 years ago, Susan B. Anthony opened her front door to a U.S. Marshal. He told her she was under arrest for illegally voting in the 1872 presidential election two weeks prior.

Now, her house-turned-museum is serving as an early voting site, and will welcome anyone who wants to make their voices heard in the upcoming primary election.

It’s a milestone the Susan B. Anthony Museum staff — who operate out of her old home — have spent years vying for. 

 “During early voting, anyone who’s a registered voter in Monroe County can come here,” President and CEO Deborah Hughes said. “And we thought, ‘That’s so fabulous.’ There are a lot of people who want to connect their voting with that tradition and Susan B. Anthony. So, we thought if we could help to add to the voter turnout — which is critically important in a democracy, then we’re thrilled about that.”

They’re hoping to pay homage to a major reason women got the right to vote. Anthony dedicated her life to many causes, but the biggest by far was suffrage. She went so far as to add an entire floor to her home on 17 Madison Street so that local suffragists would have a place to meet. 

“She was very clear that if America was going grow into the democracy that she hoped it would be, that every person would need to vote and contribute so that we could have a government that’s elected by the people,” Hughes said. 

When the 14th amendment was passed, it stated that everyone who was born in the United States was a citizen.

“It was a radical idea, but the women said, ‘Oh my gosh, we really are citizens! And shouldn’t every citizen then have a right to vote?'” Hughes said.

A few years later, in 1872, Anthony marched 15 women down past her Madison Street home to a nearby polling site. Each one of them cast their ballot, and — eventually — each one of them was indicted on a felony. Anthony was the only one who stood trial.

“She felt – her real work wasn’t just getting legislation passed — and actually she did not live long enough to see the 19th amendment get passed — but what she was trying to do was change people’s hearts,” Hughes said.

Before they had the chance to deliberate, the all-male jury was told by the judge that Anthony was guilty. Criticizing her lack of due process, Anthony never paid her $100 fine (worth about $2,500 today). Interestingly, Hughes said if she’d been alive when the 19th amendment was passed, her felony status meant she wouldn’t actually have been eligible to vote. 

But Wednesday, long after she stood trial, and long after her death, people can come to the site of her arrest and cast their ballots.

Early voting runs from March 23 through March 30 in New York State. Registered voters can head to any of the early voting sites in Monroe County. To check your voter registration status, click here