SUSAN B. ANTHONY, American feminist and suffragist, born (d: 1906) If the federal government had deliberately set out to sabotage the first American coin to commemorate a woman, and perhaps it did, it could not have done better than to choose Susan B. Anthony as the honorand.

Not merely the funny shape of the Anthony dollar killed it; the choice of Susan B. helped. It’s not that the pioneering American feminist isn’t a great figure worthy of respect and honor; she is. It’s the confusion in the public mind as to who she was, most people thinking that she carried a hatchet and demolished saloons, the old bat. Carrie Nation she wasn’t, but it’s the clothes of her period that confuse and put off people. Every woman of a certain age looked like Whistler’s mother then, or like doilies on an easy chair in mourning.

What Susan B. needed was a modern image, the way the White Rock Girl and Betty Crocker have been periodically updated. Perhaps it would have helped to publicize her love letters to Anna Dickinson – the ones that began, “My Dear Chicky Dicky Darling.”