The struggle for women’s right to vote is enshrined here in New York State, at Seneca Falls. The struggle for freedom also had its stops on the Underground Railroad at the homes of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, in New York State. The American Red Cross founder, Clara Barton, had her first chapter in Danville, which still operates today. And a pioneer of television comedy, Lucille Ball, is the hometown hero of Jamestown. These are just a few of the sites associated with women who played such an important part in American history and culture.
Celebrate Women’s History Month and learn about New York women’s massive contributions to history, culture and society at sites throughout New York State. Through Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Path Through History initiative, New Yorkers can explore women’s heritage sites and key events like the nation’s first women’s rights convention that took place in 1848 in Seneca Falls or the “First Lady of the World” Eleanor Roosevelt’s home in Hyde Park.
“New York State has been inspired by the great contributions of New York women for over two centuries,” said Governor Cuomo. “The Path Through History gets visitors started on a journey back in time to discover and celebrate the diverse people whose accomplishments made our state great. I encourage all New Yorkers to learn more about these extraordinary women who helped transform our culture and society.”
Women’s Rights is one of 13 themes used to organize 500-plus heritage sites across the state through the Path Through History initiative. Those looking to celebrate Women’s History Month in March can learn about the important role women played in the women’s suffrage and civil rights movement, but also about New York women in various fields from education to entertainment at museums and historic sites around the state. Visitors can locate sites by looking for the Path Through History marker on major state highways as well as additional local signage. In addition, the Path Through History web page—www.paththroughhistory.ny.gov— provides a list of sites.
“New York led the way in establishing women’s rights and that long journey can be traced and recounted by visiting historical sites and museums all across the state,” said Senator Betty Little, chair of the Senate Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee. “Path Through History encourages an interactive approach to learning about our past and developing a deeper understanding of the dedication of those who came before us and fought so hard. It’s enriching tourism and something I hope many people take advantage of this month.”
Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, Chair of the Assembly Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development Committee, said, “New York women had a vital role in the nationwide suffrage movement that led to the adoption of the 19th Amendment. They still provide the same inspiration and determination as the struggle for equal rights for women continues in our times. All New Yorkers should take pride in the ‘Path Through History” program that spotlights important sites that reflect the spirit of these pioneering women.”
“Governor Cuomo’s Path Through History initiative was created to connect historically and culturally significant locations throughout the state to attract visitors and boost the economy,” said Empire State Development Division of Tourism Executive Director Gavin Landry. “The hundreds of Path Through History sites identify historical assets and provide a platform to recognize and honor both the struggles and achievements of great New York women in our nation’s history.”
Several of the key Women’s Rights sites along the Path Through History as well as other locales honoring the contributions of women include:
The life of a Pioneer Woman. The Adirondack Museum (Blue Mountain Lake), one of the largest museums in upstate New York, is closed until May, but its online exhibit “Women’s Work in the Adirondacks: 1850-1920” will have you looking at the region’s rugged mountains and historic homes with new appreciation. The online narrative is illustrated with photos and historic artifacts from the museum collections.
I Wish You Were a Boy. Abolitionist and women’s suffrage leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born in Johnstown, in the Mohawk Valley Region. The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association offers a self-guided cell-phone walking tour of Johnstown, “Walk in the Footsteps of Elizabeth Cady Stanton,” that can be reached by phoning 518-406-7081. The tour covers about a mile and is filled with insights and anecdotes, such as the time when her father sighed and said “Oh, my daughter, I wish you were a boy.” This comment, says the narrator, set Elizabeth on a course “to prove that women were indeed as good as men.” For information on special exhibits and events, including a display at the Bank of America on Main Street, visit The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association.
Arts in the Park. The Saratoga National Historical Park in Schuylerville (518-664-9821 ext. 2985) is featuring a Women’s History Month exhibit, “The Force of Fashion—Prettifying the Ladies”. Learn that what’s practical and what’s fashionable are by no means new concepts.
I Love Lucy. The Lucy Desi Center for Comedy in Jamestown honors a hometown entertainment pioneer. Born here in 1911, Lucille Ball was the first woman to head a major Hollywood studio, which produced Star Trek and other popular shows. Visitors can see re-creations of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s NYC apartment and Hollywood hotel suite, a screening area, and vintage memorabilia. You may also be surprised to learn how ground-breaking I Love Lucy was: the show was the first filmed before a live audience using three cameras, and the first to reach over ten million homes.
The Fight for Rights. The Women’s Rights Movement has its roots in Seneca Falls, where America’s first women’s rights convention was held. For a sense of how revolutionary the idea of women’s suffrage was, visit the Women’s Rights National Historic Park. A film, Dreams of Equality, and exhibits at the Visitor Center, provide an excellent orientation to the Women’s Rights Movement. The Park also offers a self-guided cell phone audio tour of key sites around Seneca Falls that can be accessed by calling 315-257-9370. Other sites on the tour include Wesleyan Chapel, where the Convention was held, and two homes of civil rights leaders, M’Clintock House in Waterloo, (open May – August), home of Thomas and Mary Ann M’Clintock, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton House in Seneca Falls. Also in Seneca Falls, the National Women’s Hall of Fame honors women of the past and inducts new honorees every other year. Visitors can read about these women and be inspired by their stories.
The Ongoing Struggle. A third national women’s rights convention, held in 1852 in Syracuse, brought another articulate leader into the movement, as visitors learn when touring the home of Matilda Joslyn Gage in Fayetteville, about 15 minutes from downtown Syracuse. Gage, along with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was a founding member of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and served in various offices of the organization for twenty years (1869-1889). The museum offers an in-depth understanding of Gage’s life and work, and serves as a center for continuing education and discussion on current social justice issues.
Arrested for voting. In 1872, Susan B. Anthony and other women were famously arrested for voting in Rochester, but the right to vote was only part of what Anthony was fighting for. “Women must have a purse of her own,” she said, protesting the fact that once married, a woman could not open a bank account, rent a place to live, or enter into contracts. Visitors to the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House in Rochester learn about the life of this legendary civil rights leader. In addition, the Learning Center is designed to keep her spirit alive by offering programs that help people to make positive differences in their lives and communities.
The Underground Railroad Stopped Here. Visitors to the region will also want to see the Harriet Tubman Home Museum in Auburn, where the famed Underground Railroad “conductor,” Civil War spy and promoter of black and women’s rights lived. The Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church that she attended, a center for the abolitionist movement is marked by a plaque. Events are scheduled throughout the year to commemorate the centennial of Tubman’s death in 1913 and can be found at www.harriethouse.org/events.htm, or phone 315-252-2081.
The Angel of the Battlefield. Known as “the angel of the battlefield” for her bravery in setting up and manning hospitals at the front lines of the Civil War, Clara Barton is best known for founding the American Red Cross. In Dansville, the site of the first chapter, started by Barton, is still operating. The chapter maintains a small museum that displays some of Barton’s personal belongings, writings and letters. Visits are by appointment. Call 585-335-3500.
The Mother of Women’s Colleges. Elmira College, founded in 1855 as Elmira Female College, claims the honor of being the world’s first college to grant a baccalaureate degree to women, equal to those granted to men. It remained a women’s college until the school became co-ed in 1969. Eight of the site’s buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The General’s Lady. It was in the farmhouse at what is now Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Park in Newburgh that General George Washington established his headquarters from April 1782 to August 1783. While here, Martha Washington served as official hostess, managed the wartime household and helped operate their Virginia plantation. Every year, the park celebrates Women’s History Month with a special program, “The General’s Lady,” which presents the “Martha Washington Woman of History Award” to a woman who demonstrates similar characteristics while contributing towards the education and preservation of history in the Hudson Valley. This year’s presentation will be made on April 6, 2014.
Sojourner Truth lived in slavery here. About 90 minutes north, the Hurley Heritage Society offers a self-guided walking tour of the Hurley Village Dutch Stone Houses, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These well preserved homes, most dating to the mid-18th century and still occupied, include Hardenbergh House, where famous abolitionist and woman’s rights orator Sojourner Truth lived in slavery for about six years, as well as a home with slave quarters and another house that was part of the Underground Railroad.
First Lady of the World. Eleanor Roosevelt was the longest serving first lady in the United States, but her work didn’t start or end with her husband’s presidency. Nicknamed “First Lady of the World” by President Harry S. Truman in recognition of her human rights achievements, she also served as the U.S. delegate to the United Nations and helped draft and pass the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which she described as “the International Magna Carta for all men everywhere.” Visitors to Val-Kill, her home in Hyde Park, learn about her legacy through a short film and a guided tour. The site is open May through October from 9 am to 5 pm, Thursdays through Mondays. Guided tours are available throughout the day. November through April the site is open Thursdays through Mondays, with guided tours available at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Inspiration for a Prize-Winning Poet. Visitors can draw their own inspiration while exploring Steepletop, the Victorian home and well-tended gardens where Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay lived. Her Austerlitz home and grounds include a “poetry trail,” where poetry readings and other events are often featured. The house is open from late May to the middle of October, except for special events.
Equal Rights N.O.W. Co-founder of the National Organization for Women and women’s rights activist, Betty Friedan lived in Grand View while writing her radical book, The Feminine Mystique. The book helped kick-start the modern women’s movement, with its demands for equal pay and other rights. A monument to Friedan now stands in front of the Grand View Village Hall.
NEW YORK CITY
Honor in a Park. From Cleopatra to Marie Curie, the names of New York City parks and playgrounds read like a Who’s Who of women in history. The New York City Parks Department offers borough-by-borough and themed listings as well as a searchable list of special events. Women’s History Month events feature a talk, “The Iroquois Influence on Woman’s Rights” at the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum (in Fidler-Wyckoff House Park), in Brooklyn on March 23. Admission is free.
A Pioneering Photographer. Alice Austen, a 19th century photographer and one of the first women to shoot documentary-style photographs, lived on Staten Island. Her former home, originally built in 1690 as a one-room farmhouse and renovated in the 19th century by her father into a Victorian Gothic cottage, is located at the entrance to New York Harbor. Today, visitors to Alice Austen House can tour the historic home and view works by Alice Austen and other artists. The museum is closed January and February; call 718-816-4506 x10 for more details.
For more information about women’s heritage sites, visit http://www.hallofgovernors.ny.gov/wh/Womens-History or the New York State Office of Parks and Historic Preservation’s Women’s Heritage Trail and its Heritage Trail map.
Path Through History highlights historically and culturally significant sites and events throughout New York State. The program, introduced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, builds on New York’s already robust heritage tourism attractions. The initiative is currently focused on 13 themes including: Arts & Culture, Natural History, U.S. Presidents, Women’s Rights, Canals & Transportation, Civil Rights, Colonial History, Immigration, Innovation & Commerce, The Revolutionary War, Native American Heritage, Sports History and the War of 1812. Important heritage sites and events across the state were selected with input from leading historians. For more information, visit http://www.paththroughhistory.ny.gov.
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