Imagine! Lizzie Stanton, radical thinker
of the 19th century women's rights movement, painted her wide plank floors rich
yellow, and-loving natural sunlight- put in a new window every time her abolitionist
husband Henry embarked on a speaking tour. It's one of several cheerful stories
told during a guided tour of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's house in Seneca Falls, the
western New York town where the women's rights movement germinated nearly a century
and a half ago.
Not far from Stanton's home is Declaration Park, where
the remains of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, host of the 1st Woman's Rights Convention
in 1848, are carefully preserved. Most inspiring is the 140-foot wall on which
the famed Declaration of Sentiments and names of its 100 signers, are engraved.
Standing next to my young daughter, I was grateful for the handful of progressive
women who refused to tolerate that- "[Man] has endeavored in every way that
he could to destroy [woman's] confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect,
and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life."
door, at the National Historic Park Visitors' Center, bronze statues representing
early suffragists march across the floor. Upstairs, a maze of colorful, interactive
exhibits and a 25-minute movie detail where women have-or have not-been, and where
they are going-with increasing speed.
It is at the National Women's
Hall of Fame, however, that the soul and goal of women shine. Here the startling
accomplishments of the famous, (Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Amelia Earhart),
and the not so famous (Virginia Apgar, Dr. Barbara McClintock, Sarah Winnemucca),
By using telephones adjacent to exhibits, visitors
can hear the words of these distinguished women. My favorite is Sojourner Truth's
"Ain't I a Woman?" speech-her response to a man's statement that "woman
can't have rights because Christ wasn't a woman." At the end of a biting
retort, Truth concluded: "God and a woman made Christ. Man had nothin' to
do with it."
Women, bring your daughters-and your sons! Show them
that the door to equality is open, but swinging. The next generations must be
doers, not complainers. Read with them-and take to heart-the words of civil rights
activist Fannie Lou Hamer: "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired."
If you go: Seneca Falls. 15 minutes south of Interstate 90, Exit.
·Women's Rights National Historical Park, 136 Fall St. Visitors
Center open daily, 9-5 year-round, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.
Free. Interpretive talks and walking tours, June through September. Daily guided
tours of restored Elizabeth Cady Stanton house. Education programs available year-round;
groups of every size. Bus tours welcome. 315-568-2991.
Hall of Fame, 76 Fall St. Open May-Oct., daily, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Nov.-April,
Wed.-Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sun., noon-4 p.m.. 315-568-8060.
Falls Historical Society, 55 Cayuga St. 315-568-8412.
Day Museum, 35 E. Main St. 315-539-9611.
·Urban Cultural Park, 115
Fall St., 315-568-2703.