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Falling for Seneca Falls

By Kathleen Hall Scanlon

            When I begged to visit Seneca Falls, New York for our anniversary, my husband responded with characteristic rationality: “What’s there? Can you navigate?”

           Thus began our odyssey to the pulse of America’s Women’s Movement, Mecca to hardy feminists, home of the Women’s Hall of Fame whose raging warriors include Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells Barnett, and Frederick Douglass. Oh, you thought the US Constitution Center holds the monopoly on life-sized statues of historic giants? Au contraire! How many of us, male or female, can identify Sally Franklin Bache, Mammy Kate Heard, Wilma Mankiller, Dolores Huerta, or Daisy Bates?

            A long anniversary weekend at the pinnacle of female equity may seem unromantic, yet we discovered many historical and cultural points worth visiting. Romance complements gender equity. Okay, after a few heavy stops, including at the sidewalk statue of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Amelia Bloomer, my husband did escape to a museum of machinery sandwiched beside a totally female-run and produced retail craft store. He claimed he was drowning in estrogen – so I shopped longer. Not only did I purchase several feminist posters for my gifted classroom, but I also discovered Quotable Quotes, featuring 365 proverbs and quotations from worldwide women – excellent prompts for my summer PAWLP creative writing class.

          Face it: everyone ought to visit Seneca Falls. Male and female citizens need to celebrate Women’s History throughout the year. I find myself contemplating Shukree Hassan Tilghman’s film More than a Month, which demonstrates the imperative for teaching Black history throughout the entire school year.  All but one of the five women who organized the first Women’s Rights Convention were connected to the Underground Railroad; Civil Rights and Women’s Rights, at least in the Northeast, seem intertwined.

         Exactly what is there to see and do? Follow this link http://www.senecafalls.com/visitor-attractions.php to choose points from the Women’s Rights National Historical Park to the Finger Lakes Wine Trail and scenic locales near Lakes Cayuga, Seneca, Keuka, and Canandaigua. A helpful Visitor’s Center awaits, and visit Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s house for guided a tour.

         Incidentally, Seneca Falls hosts a bridge downtown that allegedly inspired a certain guardian angel-in-training named Clarence to earn his wings by providing an alternative scenario for his human charge George Bailey. My husband thanked me for adding worthwhile places and profound facts to his historical knowledge fund. My students and I benefited from books I still share, among my collection five favorites:

  • Baker, Jean H. Sisters: The Lives of America’s Suffragists. New York: Hill and Wang, a Division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005;
  • Bolden, Tonya. 33 Things Every Girl Should Know about Women’s History: From Suffragettes to Skirt Lengths to the ERA. New York: Crown Publishers,2002;
  • Cooney, Jr., Robert P.J. Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement. Santa Cruz, CA: American Graphic Press, 2005;
  • Sadker, Myra and David Miller Sadker. Failing at Fairness: How Our Schools Cheat Girls. New York: Touchstone, 1994;
  • Weiss, Sonia and Lorna Biddle Rinear. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Women’s History. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha Books, 2002.

 


Kathleen Hall Scanlon, Educational consultant, taught Secondary English and gifted support for 35 years. She shares samples from her vast personal library each summer as coordinator and teacher for the PAWLP Young Writers/Young Readers program based in Lower Merion. Her husband and she love history and herstory books, films, and scenic places.

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