NEW YORK — After several minutes of fiddling with the combination lock, the safe cracker pronounced it was ready.
For the first time in years, an old-fashioned safe linked to suffragette Susan B. Anthony was pried open Tuesday in the Manhattan office of the National Council of Women of the United States, an organization that Anthony helped found.
The heavy black safe, which had a rusted metal combination dial, had been sitting unopened in the office of Mary Singletary, the council’s president.
Officials at the University of Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership hired a locksmith to open it. A pioneering leader of the women’s rights movement who fought hard for the right to vote, Anthony died in 1906.
Yellowed tax documents were among the papers pulled from the safe, including a certificate of corporation from 1931 and a building lease from the 1990s. The safe also contained a box of photographs of suffragist murals that were featured at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1932.
Also inside were envelopes stamped in 1999, indicating that the safe had been opened far more recently than the council expected. But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm among the women who had gathered to see its contents.
Wearing white gloves, Catherine Cerulli, director of the Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership at the University of Rochester, pulled out a box containing a replica of the Susan B. Anthony gavel that was given to Anthony at the first International Council of Women in 1888. The replica was made by the Smithsonian Collection.
“I think that in some way, the safe is a metaphor,” Cerulli said. “It’s an opportunity to remind people that we still have a long way to go for women’s rights.”