05/14/2013 12:09 pm ET Updated Jul 14, 2013

Inspiring Change Through Susan B.

By Deborah L. Hughes

"Susan B. Anthony lived in this house? I always thought she was rich, because she was famous. But I could live in a house like this. This looks like my neighborhood..."

The Susan B. Anthony House is the perfect setting for our Women's Inspiration programs. The modest brick home is set on a tree-lined street in the core of the city. Just a couple of blocks away is one of the most blighted areas with a reputation for violent crime. Yet, ours is a diverse and thriving community neighborhood. Some of the houses are 700 square feet, and some are more than 3,000. Most appear well cared for, but one or two have been empty for years. The median household income here is only $20,000. In the park down the block is "Let's Have Tea," with bigger-than-life bronze figures of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass sitting down together for conversation over a cup of tea. We have all the challenges of urban life, and we have hopes and dreams for a better world. The neighborhood t-shirt reads, "Freedom lives here."

Our Women's Inspiration programs are workshops tailored for small groups of women who are in transition. They may have been recently incarcerated, or they may be in recovery. They may be veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq but are now in residential treatment for physical or emotional trauma. They may be caregivers or patients adjusting to life with a degenerative disease like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. Whatever their "transition," these women come to us for inspiration, and Susan B. Anthony provides it.

The program begins with a tour of the Anthony House, led by one of our engaging volunteers. Participants learn about Susan B. Anthony, from her childhood when a teacher refused to teach her long division because it was inappropriate for a girl, to the time when her family went bankrupt and she had to leave school to go to work. They learn about her travels to speak out against slavery and her connection to Frederick Douglass. They stand in the front parlor where she was arrested in 1872 and hear about her trial and conviction for voting. They learn how she built a network of relationships to sustain and encourage her. They learn about Susan B Anthony's triumphs, like getting women into the local university, and about her disappointments, like working more than 50 years to win women the right to vote, but not living long enough to see it accomplished. Finally, at the foot of the plain oak bed where she died in 1906, they hear how she handed the reins over to a new generation to finish the work, promising, "failure is impossible."

After the tour, the group gathers in our learning center to discuss what they've learned, journal about their own challenges and successes, consider the resources and relationships that they need to succeed, and strategize about the ways to effect change in their lives and communities.

As one participant concluded, "No matter what, if you have a strong belief in something, you should always believe in yourself and fight for what you believe in."

We're sharing Susan B. Anthony's story to continue her legacy, inspiring change today.

Visit our RaiseForWomen Challenge page here.