Today we intend just to go to the Women’s Rights National Historic Park but you just never know what the day will bring.
The National Park is a few blocks down the main street of town which in Seneca Falls is called Fall Street. We turn onto Fall Street and parked all along the curb are great antique cars. Not classics but real antiques. We quickly find a parking place and spend more than an hour watching nearly 50 cars drive into town and park. They look perfect in front of these wonderful late 19th century store fronts.
Every single one is fantastically restored.
I only see this Petrel that clearly had been “modernized”.
We see from their banners that they are a tour group from Antique Cars of America doing what they call Get a Grip in the Finger Lakes and have been driving around the area since Sunday. It’s now Thursday and they just happen to be in Seneca Falls when we arrive in town to learn all about the campaign for women’s rights that took place over 70 years beginning here in 1848.
None of these cars is that old of course but most of them are before or around the time of the 19th Amendment Ratifying a woman’s right to vote in 1920.
I’ve never even heard of a Coey Flyer.
Was it originallly red? Were the wooden wheels red?
How about the horn?
They are parked all over town on both sides of Fall Street, around the corner and just keep coming.
I’ll take this one. Love the hood ornament.
Never heard of the Hupmobile either. Clearly I don’t know much about antique cars and Henry Ford had a lot of competition.
Do you see the horn on this Ford? I doubt it’s original but it is an attention grabber.
I really really wanted to squeeze that ball and hear it.
I have tons more pictures of the cars we saw but I’ll make this classic Pierce Arrow the final one. This is the best gathering of Antique Cars I’ve ever seen and it’s not even a show.
Ruby looks pretty out of place parked in this line up. Back to the future.
Another unplanned serendipity is that today is the day Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman to accept the nomination for the Presidency of a major party in this country. I didn’t plan to be at the Women’s Rights National Historic Park on this day but here we are. It does give special significance to what we see and hear and learn today.
If you didn’t see the National Park logo on the side of the building, you might not know this is the National Park.
The car lends just the right touch doesn’t it?
The National Park actually consists of the Visitor’s Center, the setting for the First Women’s Rights Convention and the homes of some participants.
The first thing that grabs our attention when we enter the Visitor Center is the First Wave Statue Exhibit. More than 300 women and men organized and participated in the first Women’s Rights Convention. The sculpture done by Lloyd Lillie and two assistants includes statues of twenty people. I am drawn right to it which I’m sure is just what they want.
Photographs and live models were used to sculpt out of clay the movement, facial expressions and size of the statues. In a foundry owned and operated by a woman, the figures were cast in bronze.
While we are looking at each of the statues and I am trying to figure out who is who of the ones I know – Frederick Douglas is the easiest to spot, Elizabeth Cady Stanton is my height and to his left – they announce the film in the theater just to the left of the sign.
The film is a great introduction into the way in which the convention came about after Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott attended the World Anti-Slavery Convention where orgnizers refused to seat women delegates. The entire story is fascinating. National Parks do such a superior job of curating their historic parks.
One of the things I did not know was that the colors of the “movement” are reflected in its banner there on the wall behind the statue exhibit. The banner was created by the National Women’s Party during its campaign for ratification of the 19th Amendment.
After the movie there is a ranger led tour of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel next door where the convention was held. Ranger Kyle starts out by talking about the building the Visitor Center is in. It was built in 1916 for Adrian H. Boyce’s car dealership and was the new modern steel construction and glass curtain wall typical of the new unconventional architecture. Over the years it was a laundramat and city municipal offices before the town gave it to the National Park Service in 1987.
Kyle then takes us over to the Statue Exhibit to introduce us to the folks we should know. This is Mary Ann and Thomas McClintock. Also here are Lucretia and James Mott, Jane and Richard Hunt, Martha Write, Stanton, Douglas and eleven anonymous participants who represent the men and women who attended the convention but did not sign the Declaration of Sentiments. More about that later.
I love this little girl with her Junior Ranger hat on. They paved the way for her to be a ranger just like her brother could. I can remember going to National Parks as a young girl and not seeing any female rangers. Imagine what the North Rim would be missing without Ranger Gaelyn.
He then walks us outside and next door where we pass by the Wall of Sentiments which is a granite wall with a perpetual waterfall streaming over the full text of the Declaration of Sentiments written and read by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, presented and signed in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel next door.
In the years since it served as a haven for radical speakers, abolitionists, temperance workers, and women’s rights activists, the church has been severely altered. On July 19 and 20, 1848 it housed the first Women’s Rights Convention in the United States.
The First Wesleyan Methodist Congregation held services here until 1872. After that new owners remodeled it into a public hall and two stores, it became the Johnson Opera House in 1890. Between 1915 and 1985 a series of tenants altered the building for use as a theater and apartments among other things. The remaining fragments of the building that were salvagable can be seen as the dark bricks from the side facing the declaration wall. The building looks as it did then but has mostly been reconstructed.
Stanton is quoted in 1898 as saying “the convention …was in every way a grand success….the most momentous reform that had yet been launched in the world – the first organized protest that had yet been launched on the world against the injustice which had brooded for ages over the character and destiny of one half of the race.”
Ranger Kyle tells us the story of the convention held here and the presentation of the “Declaration of Sentiments”, the first part of which was modeled after the Declaration of Independence. The Sentiments declared that “all men and women are created equal” and went on to demand equal rights for women in property and custody laws, educational opportunities, equal participation in professions, church and politics. It was the beginning of a seventy-two year battle to gain the right for women to vote in this country. Though women gained the right to vote in 1920, they were still less than 6% of the country’s elected officials in 1990 when they made up more than half the population.
He then announces that he will also be doing a tour at the former home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton which is about a mile from here across the river. David and I decide to walk over. When we cross the bridge over the Seneca River we see the Trinity Episcopol church which is right on the river.
It’s a beautiful picturesque structure. Very different from the plain Wesleyan Chapel
The walk to the Stanton Home has numerous plaques, statues and information about both the town and its famous citizens. We walk down Washington along the river on the opposite side from the church.
On the bank of the river is the statue of Amelia Bloomer, you can tell which one she is, introducing Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Susan B. Anthony. This meeting would set the course for the public efforts toward the vote for women.
Stanton once described their partnership by saying “….it has been said that I forged the thunderbolts and Susan fired them.”
From this moment until Stanton’s death they were close friends and partners in the struggle.
Across the street is a statue dedicated to the men who signed the Declaration. Of the 300 attendees, some of whom were local people drawn in by the crowd, 68 women and 32 men signed the document. Wrapping around the three men whose names are not given though clearly one is Frederick Douglas, is a banner with the the dates of actions on women’s rights beginning in the 1700’s. Most of them signify states taking rights away from women until the 1848 convention. Slowly individual states grant women the franchise. In 1916 Jeanette Rankin is elected to the House of Representatives in Montana. The banner ends in 1920 with the Ratification of the 19th amendment. It’s a very interesting and informative piece.
On the way to Stanton’s house we pass by many other 19th Century homes. These would have been her neighbors.
The Stanton House, like the Tubman home, is undergoing Park Service renovation. We learn from the information outside that when the Stantons moved here in 1847, the house was nearly twice as large as it is now but dilapidated and overgrown. Stanton’s father had given her the house. Married women were not allowed to own property of any kind “unless” it was received as a gift or inheritance. Therefore Stanton owned this in her own name. She acted as her own general contractor, hired workers and over saw the refurbishment of the house for use by her family. Stanton managed the house and 7 children alone as her husband Henry served in the New York State Legislature. He was a lawyer and reformer who advocated for the abolition of slavery.
Unlike the Tubman house, the Stanton house has been mostly restored inside and can be opened for visitors. During the restoration they discovered the wallpaper from Stanton’s time and it has been replicated in the rooms where it could be authenticated. A few pieces of furniture from the Stantons are here but remaining furnishings will have to be acquired.
I like the jaunty placement of Kyle’s hat.
These two pieces of furniture are authenticated by pictures of Stanton using each one.
It appears the upholstery has not been replicated. This is not a large chair but it looks like it is with Mrs. Stanton sitting in it.
Apparently this is the desk at which she wrote much of the material delivered in lectures by Susan B. Anthony.
It appears the second wing of the house was behind this one. I assume both were accessed by this stairway. I wonder why it was removed. It always seems that houses get bigger with time not smaller.
According to the floor plan provided, this was the children’s bedroom. The Stanton’s had 7 children, five boys and two girls. Her children and her household responsibilities restsricted the campaigning Elizabeth could do until they were grown. She apparently struggled to balance her commitment to women’s rights with family obligations though she made it clear that she loved her children dearly. Each time she gave birth she displayed a flag at the house that announced to the neighborhood whether it was a boy or a girl.
This is the master bedroom. Susan B Anthony came and stayed with the Stantons often to work with Elizabeth and be “auntie” to the children who, we are told, were allowed a “great deal of freedom” for the day and got into much mischief.
Miss Anthony must have stayed in the now absent wing of the upstairs.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton with her sons Henry and Daniel in 1848, the year of the convention.
In quotations on display in the upstairs bedroom along with these photographs, her daughter Margaret describes her as “the companion of whom we children were most fond, as she entered into all our joys and sorrows, and was always sympathetic. Her sons and daughters confessed their sins to her, she knew all their lives as she did the pages of a well read book; we trusted her with our very souls”. High praise I would say.
The year of this photo of Mrs. Stanton, her daughter Harriet and granddaughter Nora isn’t given but Harriet was a baby in an 1856 so I’m guessing this is the late 1870’s. Staunton would have been in her 60’s.
These two women were at the forefront of their lifelong campaign for women’s rights. Neither lived to see women get the vote but they inspired all those who continue the fight for equality in every sphere of society. Stanton died in 1902 at the age of 87. Anthony died in 1906 at the age of 86. Either they had very good genes or their dedication to this cause led to an engaged and long life for each one.
Here in this house Stanton wrote speeches for Susan B Anthony as well as articles and opinons for local and national newspapers. She adopted the Bloomer costume, planned convention and suffrage drives and speeches. In 1854 Stanton lobbied the New York State Legislature to amend the existing Married Women’s Property Law, which would grant women the right to conduct business, manage their own finances, sue and be sued, and be joint guardians of their children. After six failed attempts she finally prevailed in 1860, bringing New York’s women a giant leap closer in equal rights to men.
Well she didn’t do all that in this house exactly since the house has been altered since her ownership.
A plaque outside gives the only picture of Stanton’s house. Taken in 1890, 28 years after they had moved, it shows what it probably looked like when she lived here.
Leaving the Stanton House we are intercepted, just a few doors down by a very friendly calico kitty. These pictures are for my kitty loving Carrie.
When she comes and sits right down on my feet so I can’t move, it’s clearly time to pay attention.
She never tired of petting and followed us for just a short way before her owner called her back. What a pretty kitty!
The Stanton house is just across from the lake and in her day I suspect they owned that property and had a lovely view. Today there are newer houses on the other side of the street and they now have the river view. . Further down Washington Street are more very lovely and elegant period homes.
Walking back to the museum we cross the bridge and I take a picture of the back of the buildings on Fall Street as they line the river. The beautiful church is visible from the other side of the bridge.
Back at the Visitors Center, we head upstairs to see the expanded exhibits on Women’s rights. Cartoons lined the stairway up. Love these two.
In a small side room, they are showing an excellent video on Harriet Tubman’s work not only on abolition but later on Women’s Rights. We take the opportunity to sit after our walk to and from the Stanton home.
This room is one in which they also do Children’s programs and it has a lot of cool stuff to play with which I do.
Back out in the central area, the exhibits are many and varied beginning with descriptions of “women’s place” during the time of the struggle. I’m not sure how many young women realize that at the time of the declaration women could not own property, had no rights to their own children custody went to the fathers, could not divorce but their husbands could divorce them, couldn’t vote, couldn’t have bank accounts and on and on.
They are many and varied covering all aspects of life including the picture of “the little woman” who “stands by her man” that has been so prevalent, the Title 9 law that opened sports to women,the struggle with the Equal Rights Amendment, the controversy over body image and the prevalence of eating disorders, problems of sexual harrassment and equal pay for equal work, the image of women in the media among other things related to women’s struggle and equality. I have to say, lately they don’t ALWAYS remark on what Hillary Clinton is wearing and her hair as they have done for women politicians but not for men for years.
We stay until the Visitor Center closes and still don’t see everything. It’s not a large building but there is plenty to experience and it is all very well done.
On our way out, David takes one more picture of the The First Wave Statue Exhibit with a crasher. If I coulda been there, I certainly woulda.
I hope my daughter and granddaughter will some day come to this museum and appreciate what these women did for us and what women around the world and here in this country still struggle and march for. This quilted wall hanging says it all.
By the way, want to know what happened to the Susan B. Anthony silver dollar? The U.S. Treasury gave it up in 1999 in favor a coin commemorating Sacajawea, the woman who helped Lewis and Clark reach the Pacific Coast.. Anthony dollars minted before 1982 and a special issue minted in 1999 are still in circulation. Several groups protested the decision to abandon Susan B. Anthony, but one congressman is quoted as saying that coins should not show "an obscure historical figure like Susan B. Anthony.” Hmmm “manifest” destiny vs women’s rights?
Before heading to the car, we stop to read the entire declaration of sentiments and the list of those who signed it. If you’d like to read it you can do so at this link.
The last bit of pretty amazing serendipity is to discover the Women’s Rights National Historical Park is the second building from the corner of Clinton and Fall Streets. Wonder what Elizabeth and Susan would have to say about that and a possible woman President of the United States?