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?