Susan B. Anthony Sculpture Unveiling

A crowd gathers Thursday at the Adams Town Common for an unveiling ceremony for the statue of Susan B. Anthony, which has been kept under wraps since its installation in September.

ADAMS — Before a large crowd Thursday morning, descendants of Susan B. Anthony and members of the Adams Suffrage Centennial Celebration Committee hoisted black sheets off an 8-foot-tall statue commemorating the pioneer in the women’s suffrage movement.

Local and state lawmakers and county residents gathered on the newly renovated Adams Town Common to reflect on Anthony’s impact and celebrate her memory, in a celebration delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Anthony was born in Adams on Feb. 15, 1820, and lived with her family in town for six years.

“Those [years], in this community, gave her the foundation to rise up and be the strong woman that we know and will always remember,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, the keynote speaker for the celebration.

“[They] were critical to her future and to our future.”

The statue was commissioned by the Suffrage Centennial Celebration Committee and installed last year to mark Anthony’s 200th birthday. It depicts Anthony delivering the “Declaration of the Rights of the Women of the United States” outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4, 1876. A 6-year-old version of the activist sits below her, reading a book.

“The idea for me was that, as a child, you read books that enable you as an adult to speak meaningfully,” said sculptor Brian Hanlon. “That’s the message I really want to transcend in this piece.”

Leaders celebrated efforts to raise money for the statue and the park renovation, including $300,000 in donations raised from the community, a Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant, and $50,000 procured by the state delegation.

“We’re very grateful for our partnership that we have with the commonwealth to assist towns like Adams being able to achieve projects that are frankly beyond our capabilities,” Town Administrator Jay Green said as he introduced the town’s new green space, including renovated walkways, benches and year-round Christmas tree.

Community members gather Thursday in the Town Common in Adams, the birthplace of Susan B. Anthony, for the unveiling of a bronze statue made in her honor.

State Rep. John Barrett III, D-North Adams, recalled going to the chair of the state’s Ways and Means committee to push for funding.

“I said, ‘I really need $50,000 for a statute back in Adams,’ ” Barrett told the crowd. “Recognizing what it meant and what it was all about, not just to the town of Adams but the entire state of Massachusetts.”

State Sen. Adam Hinds, who also worked to secure money for the project, asked the audience to consider how they would regard Susan B. Anthony in the present day.

“She’s basically an activist,” said the Pittsfield Democrat. “She’s out there saying, ‘Hey, this is unequal, there are flaws in our democracy, and there are flaws in our society.’ Would we be revering her today?”

The lesson, Hinds added, is to listen “when you have folks who are saying, ‘Wait a second, we have a problem, we need to do something about it.’ ”

Susan B. Anthony Sculpture Unveiling

Above: Sculptor Brian Hanlon presents Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito with a miniature model of his bronze sculpture of Susan B. Anthony for display in the Statehouse, after a ceremony for the unveiling of Hanlon’s full-scale sculpture, part of which is shown at top, at the Town Common in Adams.

He also pointed to Anthony’s work as an abolitionist, in light of bills moving through statehouses across the country that would have a disproportionate impact on people of color’s ability to vote.

“We’re watching a lot of states going backward on voting rights,” he said. “So, that’s another reminder in my head that here’s someone who stood up for voting rights and racial equity.”

In line with Anthony’s work, women were at the heart of Thursday’s celebration. When she spoke, Adams Select Board member Christine Hoyt asked local female leaders to rise, including Town Clerk Haley Meczywor, Town Moderator Myra Wilk and North Adams City Councilor Lisa Blackmer, among others, to celebrate their contributions.

“The last two national election cycles, it was not lost on me that I was able to stand in the birthplace of Susan B. Anthony and see the names of women on the ballot for the highest offices in this country,” she said.

“When I’m in the voter’s booth, I think of Susan’s work, and the many women who came after who paved the way for myself, and other women, who serve in an elected position.”

In her remarks, Polito applauded the work that the town did to put up the statue.

“At some point, there were a few of you that got together and said, how important would it be to make sure that Susan B. Anthony was forever remembered, honored and celebrated here in this town?” Polito said. “You got it done, and it’s a huge credit to you.”

Almost 101 years after the U.S. adopted the 19th Amendment, Polito pointed to the massive turnout of women in the previous election as proof of how far the country has come: More than half of nearly 160 million voters in the 2020 presidential election were women.

“The reason this matters is because women’s voices matter,” she said. “They matter on your local board. They matter in elected positions. … Our voices and perspectives make a difference.”

Susan B. Anthony Sculpture Unveiling

Town committee members and descendants of the famous suffragette gather before a large crowd to unveil a bronze statue of Susan B. Anthony at the Town Common in Adams — Anthony’s birthplace.

Francesca Paris can be reached at and 510-207-2535.