Susan B. Anthony was supposed to be on Mt. Rushmore…and in the Hall of Records

If you’ve ever been to Mt. Rushmore, you have probably had the feeling, “This seems pretty small.” And many of you already know that the four face carvings were initially supposed to be carvings of the presidents from the waist up, which accounts for the odd and distant placings, giving the appearance of being “a lot smaller than you thought it would be.” If Eleanor Roosevelt had had her way, however, perhaps the sculpture—with one more face added to the monument—would loom just a little larger for 50% of the population.

Construction on the four faces.

Construction on the four faces.

In a bill introduced in 1935 right before construction on the final face of Teddy Roosevelt had begun, Eleanor Roosevelt with congresswoman Caroline O’Day (a wealthy widow whose status as such allowed her great political and social freedoms without having to be married), proposed that Susan B. Anthony join the four presidents on top of the mountain.

Roosevelt and O'Day with their husbands.

Roosevelt and O’Day with their husbands.

While they were out campaigning for their bill for two years until 1937 when the bill would actually be read, hasty dynamite blasting into the final face of Roosevelt’s uncle-president allowed the bill to be dropped with the addition of a rider that stated only those faces whose work had already begun would be included on the mountain monument. Susan B. Anthony, the abolitionist-cum-suffragette who has one of the best sentencing-speech Federal Court transcripts in the history of our nation, was denied her place.

Imagine that face on the mountaintop. How different could life be if she were a tourist attraction?

Imagine that face on the mountaintop. How different could life be if she were a tourist attraction?

The original carver of Mt. Rushmore, a Danish-American named Gutzon Borglum felt the rush of Roosevelt’s and O’Day’s crusades and vowed he would carve Anthony’s face into the Hall of Records, which would be a hollowed-out tunnel below Mt. Rushmore. All metaphors aside, at least it was something. Unfortunately, funding for the Hall of Records project was immediately cut off after his announcement, though it’s unclear if the two things are related. Susan B. Anthony: 0. US Government: 2. And then, of course, Borglum died, leaving the completion of his carvings to his son Lincoln.

O'Day back in the day as a free widow.

O’Day back in the day as a free widow.

The Hall of Records was eventually “completed,” but a commemoration of Anthony had nothing to do with it. Instead, it’s a tunnel with a box, which I suppose could be construed as an ode to women…

Whatta bloody f*cking tunnel.

Whatta bloody f*cking tunnel.


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