We managed two-and-a-quarter out of three.
Women’s Rights & Seneca Falls
From all appearances, Seneca Falls is simply a pretty, sleepy little town. But here, on July 9, 1848, five women gathered for a tea party that changed the destiny of all women in this country.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, Mary Ann M’Clintock, and Jane Hunt were all active in social reform, particularly the abolitionist movement to end slavery. But like every other woman at that time, they didn’t have the right to vote, attend college, or even to speak in public. They couldn’t own property, keep their own money, divorce their husbands (although their husbands could divorce them), or gain custody of their children.
While drinking their tea, the five women shared their discontent at being treated as second class citizens. And they came up with the idea of organizing a convention to address the inequality of women.
I imagine the scene: All five women sitting with perfect posture in their elaborate high-necked dresses and lace bonnets, sipping tea. And plotting a revolution.
They didn’t waste any time. On July 19th and 20th, 1848, the first Convention on Women’s Rights took place at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls. Elizabeth Cady Stanton presented The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, which she wrote based on the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.”
~”The Declaration of Sentiments”
The Declaration of Sentiments demanded equality in property rights, education, employment, religion, marriage and family, and most radical of all—the right to vote.
On the first day, only women were invited. The second day, they opened the convention to men. One hundred people—68 women and 32 men—signed the Declaration of Sentiments, and the Women’s Rights Movement was born.
The Women’s Rights National Historical Park is dedicated to that history-changing tea party, the convention, and the ripple effect across the nation that transformed women’s lives.
There are so many stories in the museum about historically important women that I had never heard of. For example, Amelia Bloomer, who was the first woman to own and edit a newspaper, and who promoted dress reform to free women from restrictive and unhealthful styles (her loose pants and knee-length skirts became known as “bloomers”). Bloomer introduced Stanton to Susan B. Anthony (one of the only women I knew about!), and the two immediately forged a lifelong friendship, leading the women’s rights movement for four decades. A bronze statue on the Seneca River (pictured in the header photo) commemorates their fortuitous meeting.
It took 72 years, but finally, in 1920, the 19th Amendment—nicknamed the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment”—was ratified. By that time, hundreds of thousands of women had joined their voices in the fight for the right to vote.
We explored the museum, the newly renovated Wesleyan Chapel next door where the Women’s Rights Convention took place (only a few bricks remain of the original building) and walked a mile along the river to Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s home, where Susan Anthony had a room upstairs and was considered a member of the family because she visited so often.
The museum itself is small but packed full of information and the ranger-led tours are excellent. Following the timeline of women’s rights was fascinating and enlightening, and the museum makes it clear (should you have any doubt) that although we’ve come a long way, there’s still a lot of work to do to create equality. Women are underrepresented in the political arena and academia and make less than men for equivalent work. Women still shoulder most of the responsibility for home and family and provisions for childcare are woefully inadequate. Issues of violence against women and struggles over women’s reproductive rights continue. The museum pointedly asks the question: “What next? And how can we create a future of true equality?”
Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
The beautiful Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is a 10,000-acre expanse of grasslands and wetlands that provides habitat for thousands of migratory birds and other wildlife. We visited at the end of June, a lush but bug-free time of year.
The visitor center is small but interesting. I’m still trying to figure out what bird wove this cozy, intricate nest that was on display in the center.
We hiked several miles of trails through the refuge, including a towpath along the Erie Canal. And we drove the 3.5-mile Wildlife Drive, discovering a fabulous enormous Bald Eagle sculpture at the end of the drive.
Another day, we kayaked the Seneca River in the Montezuma Wetlands Complex (maps are available at the refuge visitor center). It was a peaceful, lovely five-mile paddle with just enough twists and turns on the river to keep it interesting.
See the nest here? Not very comfortable looking.
But the Killdeer did a wonderful job of protecting her nest, even though she and her partner made a questionable decision about where to build it. The nest was in the parking lot of the boat ramp, and the rangers had roped it off to prevent people from accidentally running over it.
About the Campground
We stayed at Sampson State Park, on the eastern shore of Lake Seneca. It’s a huge park and sites vary widely. We were very happy with our spacious site (#75) that backed up to a grassy field. Like all NY State Parks, hookups are electric only, and the water faucets are not very conveniently located, so fill up before you get to your site. Verizon was good.
The park is conveniently located for exploring Seneca Falls and Montezuma Wildlife Refuge. It’s also in the heart of some of the best wine country in the Finger Lakes, which was #3 on our list of things to do, and which we failed at, other than a very quick visit to Ventosa Winery for a tasting and to pick up a bottle of wine. Unfortunately, unlike breweries, all of the wineries close at 5:00, which didn’t work out for us. I guess we need to take up day drinking?
I knew who Amelia Bloomer was, but only because someone on a message board I follow uses that moniker. But it made me learn who she was just the same, so it counts!
That refuge and campground look beautiful and serene. Those crazy killdeers always build their nests in the silliest places! I love how birds are perpetually resourceful.
Looking forward to the next installment, especially about a place called “glimmerglass.” Just the name is fabulous!
Joodie, I’m glad the museum exists to tell us about all of the important women we never learned about in history classes. And yes, any way that you learn about these women counts!
I wanted to go to Glimmerglass just for the name. :-)
Well, you know what they say about real estate: “location, location, location…”
I’ll just show myself out…
The women’s rights museum sounds fascinating. There was a display about it at the Henry Ford which was interesting, but I imagine a ranger led tour at an NPS facility would be that much better. It’s incredible what these women accomplished given the assumptions of the day, but disappointing that it took so long and that we are still dealing with the same nonsense today. It all gets exhausting. All of it.
I agree with your assessment on the wineries. Not all of us get up with the sun, you know. Hell, some of us don’t even get up before 9. Sometimes 10. Perhaps some later drinking hours would be helpful?? I think so.
Laura, I agree, later hours for wineries! We need to start a movement.
Speaking of movements, yes, it is beyond ridiculous that we’re dealing with the same issues today for women’s rights. Actually, for the rights of all people, across the board. It is astonishing to consider the courage of the women at that tea party. In my opinion, we all need to be as courageous and to speak up and take action against the repression and inequality that permeate our society. We can do so much better than we’re doing.
I noticed the wood kayak paddle right away! I have one! But few folks do, unless they’ve acquired and kept it for the past 30 plus years.
Inequality frosts me. We definitely are going to have to check out that museum on our next trip through, Laurel. On the wineries: Most we’ve ever been to are only open until 5 or 6. If you start at noon, 5 PM is more than late enough. :)
Haha, I guess we need to start earlier on our winery tours, Jim! The problem is that we always seem to be out doing something else. We need to rearrange our priorities, right? :-)
You and Diana will really like the Women’s Rights Museum. It’s very well done and inspirational.
Terri, I think Eric has had that wooden paddle for about 25 years. It’s seen a lot of wonderful kayaking in our journeys! Cool that you have one, too.
OK, new life goal: work as an interpreter at the Women’s Rights NHP. Well, I might have trouble not getting spitting mad every single day and saying many intemperate things, so on second thought that’s not the best idea for me. But the very least I can do is make a visit! Your excellent description of the area, including its natural resources, makes this a very appealing destination for us. Of course, we would plan on plenty of time to visit the wineries…. Feel free to check with us any time you need advice on how long to spend visiting wineries and breweries. Answer: ALL THE TIME.
Shannon, you would be AWESOME as an interpreter at the Women’s Rights NHP. And if you do it, I say don’t hold back in whatever you want to say! We need more outspoken, powerful women (and individuals from every other repressed minority group) to drive the changes that need to happen in this country. And in the world.
On a lighter note, we may need to consult with you on our time management skills re: wineries.
These were some amazingly brave women. I use to have my higher level readers read biographies of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B Anthony during our biography unit. I learned a lot reading with them. Love that Bald Eagle sculpture!! I hope the eggs survived. Not the best place for sure but good to hear the rangers were protecting it.
Pam, that is SO COOL that you had your students reading about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony. I was dismayed to realize just how little I knew about anyone other than Susan B. Anthony. Those women were so courageous, to speak up and take action in a time of so much repression. Education is the most powerful tool we have for change. Our country needs more teachers like you. :-)
You Guys are having too much FUN!
We are loving our travels, John. We miss you and Judy, though! Hope you two are doing well.
I love that beautiful nest….it looks like the bird knitted a soft sweater and then put her next inside! Very talented.
Once again, the Women’s Rights Museum is just too close to home for me to have visited it! Actually, we haven’t been to Montezuma either! Thanks for taking us there. We’d never see things if it weren’t for friends!
Sue, that’s exactly what I thought when I saw that nest…it looks like someone knitted a little sweater for it! Some nests are works of art, and others are not so much…like that Killdeer’s nest.
I think you and Dave would enjoy both Seneca Falls and Montezuma Wildlife Refuge. Then again, you are so comfortable at your lovely summer lake home, I can understand why it would be hard to go anywhere else.
What a wonderful trip and beautiful photographs. I especially love the Great Blue Heron sculptures! What a crazy Killdeer nest, though.
We had a fabulous time exploring the Finger Lakes region, Les. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. Those Great Blue Heron sculptures were on the trail at Montezuma Wildlife Refuge—I love when the refuges include art!
Thanks for this great post! Unfortunately neither Elizabeth Cady Stanton nor Susan B. Anthony lived long enough to vote. 2020 marks the 100th anniversary for that right – let’s get out there and VOTE!
I’m glad you appreciated the post, Janie. The little town of Seneca Falls and the Women’s Rights Museum made a lasting impression on me. And you make a good point—we all need to get out and vote to celebrate and honor the right we have to make our voices heard. It’s sobering to think that we’ve only had the right to vote for 100 years!! And there’s still more to be done…
Despite the strides, these women have initiated ( I only know of SBAnthony), still 72 years later the women are still lagging behind in most areas. I think we need a woman president to fulfill their dreams of women’s equality. Thanks for the tour and enlightenment.
We call the Killdeers the most annoying birds, they squawk as if we are about to kill them!
So glad to see that you were able to take down your kayak :)
MonaLiza, I agree…a woman president is what we need! This next election may even provide us with that golden opportunity.
We are so happy to have our kayak with us on this journey. We’ve been to so many extraordinary places, from the Florida Keys to the San Juan Islands, and many swamps, bayous, lakes, and rivers in between. And yes, Killdeer are kind of annoying. :-)
We were so glad that we visited the Women’s Rights National Historical Park while in the area. The rangers made the tour even better.
Good eye on the killdeer eggs. I hope you are getting things taken care of and things going well in Florida.
Deb, we were glad we visited the Women’s Rights Historical Park, too. I agree, the rangers really enhanced our experience.
Thanks so much for your good wishes about my folks. We’re still making our way south and will be in Florida in early December.
I was going to catch up with you by starting at the beginning of your trip North but then I had to see where you are now first but if course you aren’t there now anyway. Such great pictures. They took me right back to our time in those exact places. Seneca Falls was one of my very favorite towns. Did you get to see the tiny National women’s hall of fame. Absolutely wonderful!!
Sherry, I’m so happy to hear from you! We enjoyed our day in Seneca Falls and were inspired by the Women’s Rights Museum. We were only there for one day and didn’t make it to the hall of fame. I’ll remember that if we make it back that way!
Laurel, thanks for your coverage of the Women’s Rights’ museum. It is interesting to us in a couple of ways… First of course is the reminder that a handful of committed individuals can have a massive impact if properly organised to achieve societal change. While the specifics may be different, a current reminder of this is the work by Greta Thurnberg, the young Nordic activist having huge impact on the world’s approach to climate change. A long ways to go, but it is a start.
The other take away from your excellent summary of the Women’s Rights’ museum is the reminder that we take todays reality as “reality” often devoid of historical perspective, both looking back at what was and looking forward at what will be. Just as it is a head scratching moment to reflect on how recently women’s right to vote became law and therefore the current U.S. reality, so is it possible to foresee similar developments in the future where animal rights may emerge to be a new reality. For instance, we are seeing laws being passed in a number of Asian countries, so that the killing of endangered species bears the same penal consequence as the killing of a human. It is today but a handful of countries that criminalise abuse and killing of animals and of course animals do not have the same ability to express their grievances to the powers that be. But a future reality where animals do have rights, is, we hope an inevitable societal evolution.
Ben & Peta
Ben & Peta, I often reflect on how one person, or a “small group of thoughtful, committed citizens” as Margaret Mead said, can and have changed the world. And it gives me hope, knowing that there continue to be courageous, outspoken, inspirational individuals like Greta Thunberg.
And I definitely believe that we must have laws to protect endangered species—it is heartbreaking to stop and consider how many creatures we have extirpated or driven to the brink of extinction.