ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Early Tuesday morning, dozens gathered around Susan B. Anthony's modest headstone in Rochester's historic Mount Hope Cemetery.
One by one, they stepped forward to place their "I Voted Today" stickers on Anthony's time-worn headstone — partaking of an Election Day tradition that has gained new meaning with the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, the former senator from New York, who could become America's first female president before the day ends.
"I'm voting for the first woman president. As a woman, I can vote because of the sacrifices she made," said Gillian Paris of Brighton, who affixed her sticker to Anthony's marker about 7 a.m., shortly after sunrise. It was her first visit to Anthony's grave which made the occasion "a little more special."
By 9 a.m., perhaps 300 people, a large majority of them women and girls, had made the pilgrimage to the 196-acre Victorian cemetery, and a long line of voters waited their turn to approach her stone.
The morning air was crisp and clear, and the Anthony family plot, atop one of Mount Hope's hills, was framed by stately trees with their autumn foliage brilliant in the morning sun.
Nearly everyone who honored Anthony had friends, or strangers, take their pictures in front of the head stone — which was almost entirely covered in "I Voted" stickers, with only her name visible. Many people smiled and laughed in delight at the occasion.
"I never cried when I filled out my ballot before. But I realized my daughters — and I have three of them — have the right to vote for a woman. It made my cry," said Jodi Atkin of Irondequoit, who trekked to the grave site with daughter Jessie. Both were clad in white, which many women chose to wear on Tuesday to honor those who, like Anthony, helped secure their right to vote.
"It's crazy because the first time I came to Susan B. Anthony's grave was on a fourth-grade field trip," said Jessie Atkin. Years later, as a graduate student in Washington, D.C., she taught about Anthony in a class on protest writing.
"To come full circle and be able to come back here after having learned about her and taught about her, to be able to participate here, was really cool," added Jessie, who now lives in Rochester.
Patricia Corcoran, a volunteer from Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery who was at the grave site before dawn to greet people, said the scene was touching and uplifting. She was struck by the fact that so many young people accompanied their parents to the cemetery.
"You can see it was important for people to bring their children," she said.
Nora Rubel, who is director of the Susan B. Anthony Institute at the nearby University of Rochester, was one of many visitors who wanted to share the experience with their children.
"I have two daughters. We went to the polls together and we wanted to come here together and put our stickers on the grave," Rubel said. It's an historic time to choose to come. It's an amazing moment."