I’m back finally, after recovering from shoulder surgery. It feels so good to get out in the world with my gear again. For a while now I have been making trips from Maine to Ohio on a regular basis. My route takes me right past Seneca Falls, NY. Every time, I see signs marking the location of the National Women’s History Museum. My most recent trip marked possibly the last time I would travel this way so I decided to stop. Once I did, I was so overwhelmed by the history of the village and region that I spent the night in order to explore further the next day.
Several years ago I watched a movie entitled Iron Jawed Angels with Hillary Swank playing the role of Alice Paul. At the time, I wondered why I was so unaware of such history. I like the movie so much that I bought it for my home library. About that time, there was a major election coming up. Several of my women co-workers talked about not voting because they were too busy or this reason or that reason. I marveled at the fact that so few of us knew anything about the hardships endured by our foremothers in the fight for the right to vote. I lent my movie to several women and after viewing it, they were determined to vote.
Now, here I was in the village where the Women’s Rights movement, in this country, first took hold. I visited museums and the important landmarks. Suddenly this all became a living history for me. The names of Alice Paul and Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, along with others, all had a face. But in addition, the lives of countless others became almost tangible. Seeing all the nearby textile mills and factories, the plight of women of that time touched me profoundly.
The construction of the Erie Canal along with adjunct canals, in the region, transformed rural communities into bustling centers of manufacturing and commerce. Often when there was no work for the man of the family, the women and girls could procure employment in factories because of such strong gender roles and division of labor. The women were paid a pittance in comparison to what a man would make doing the same job. That is if a man were to ever take on such “womanly” work. If a woman chose not to marry, was a widow, or had a drunkard for a husband, she could still support herself and any children by working in a factory.
Many factors came together, in Seneca Falls, to create a ‘perfect storm’. Social reform became a focused and determined movement bent on molding and shaping our young country. The Temperance movement sprang up in response to the fact that drunken husbands could not hold down jobs and would abuse their wives and children. Religious reform produced women leaders of many new sects who balked at the oppression of women as is written in the bible. Slavery became a divisive issue with many Seneca Falls residents supporting the Underground Railroad and the fight for an end to slavery.
One might argue that Seneca Falls, NY is steeped in such a rich history so as to rival other landmark cities such as Boston and Philadelphia. It is even touted to be the inspiration of Frank Capra’s holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart. If you are interested in Sociology, Anthropology, Women’s Studies, or History in general, you really must place Seneca Falls, NY high on your list of places to visit. I can tell you that I bought my young grandchildren several books from the Women’s Rights National History Park. In about 8 or 10 years, I plan to take them on a tour of Seneca Falls and the surrounding area. I want history to come alive for them.
“If we want our girls to benefit from the courage and wisdom of the women before them, we have to share the stories.” – Shireen Dodson
Presbyterian Church- Proposal of Equal Rights Amendment
Gate leading to Promenade and Canal Harbor Park
Wesleyan Church-First Women’s Rights Convention
View of one of the Canal bridges and boat or barge tie off
Old foundry bell
Reflection of the Cady Stanton house from a Convex Mirror on the corner
Homes along the Cayuga-Seneca canal
Remains of old factories
Gate at lock on Oak Island
Old Mill with tree shadow
Oak Island Geese
Another abandoned factory
Seneca Knitting Mills
Trinity Church from bridge
View of Trinity Church and Historical Park from Gazebo