Category Archives: women’s history

A legacy trip in the “Cradle” of the Women’s Rights Movement, plus other news

Edna on a horseThe New York History Blog featured women’s stories during March 2014, Women’s History Month. It’s a platform that welcomes news of suffrage-related events, histories and news. Check out some of the offerings, and if you aren’t following the New York History Blog, get on board.

More baby steps in the long process to win approval for the National Women’s History Museum. All members of the House Administration Committee voted in support of HR 863, this week that will move the National Women’s History Museum legislation forward. Committee Chair Candice Miller (R-MI), Ranking Member Robert Brady (D-PA), and Committee Members Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) spoke in support of creating a commission to produce a feasible plan for a privately-funded national women’s history museum. The bill passed out of the Committee without amendments, the first step to obtaining bill passage in the House of Representatives. The House Natural Resources Committee will consider the bill next.

A four-day, three-night Susan B. Anthony Legacy Trip is scheduled from August 4 through 7, 2014, “Be Part of Her Story” includes an in-depth and behind-the-scenes exploration of Susan B. Anthony’s life, her friends and family, her times and causes, her lifetime struggle to achieve equality for everyone. Organized by The Friends of Susan B. Anthony Museum and House, the trip includes three nights lodging in a downtown Rochester hotel, transportation to all venues, seminars on topics related to the suffrage movement with experts in their fields, travel around the historic Finger Lakes region, and visits to Rochester sites of importance to the Anthonys and suffrage. The trip is limited to 40, so sign up soon! National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, 17 Madison Street, Rochester, NY 14608.

Follow LetsRockTheCradle.com for upcoming events, action campaigns, and featured historic sites in the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the United States. In other news: There’s a new Facebook page about Matilda Joslyn Gage. The Finger Lakes Museum has appointed a new director.

Follow Suffrage Wagon for news and views of our suffrage history. 

Bonnie Smith’s tips on being interviewed about important subjects: Women’s History Month special

Bonnie Smith's tips for being interviewedBonnie Smith is nuts about history and how it can drive your business, your important causes and organizations. She has been passionate about this subject matter for years and understands that getting out the word is essential. The suffrage activists at the turn of the 20th were extremely sophisticated about the importance of the news media, and this was a new platform for the nation. Are you about to be interviewed by a reporter? It can be a bit unnerving, but here are some tips Bonnie believes will help.

* Don’t wing it! In spite of how much you know your subject, during the interview you won’t remember everything. Write down the key points you want to make, print them out, and hold the sheet of paper in front of you.

Think about the questions the reporter will ask and be prepared. There’s the specific subject of the interview, but there’s also context, information about you and/or your company, something about your own history or the history of your organization. really think it through.

An example: One of Bonnie’s clients knew Pope John Paul II, and he will be interviewed in April when the Pope is canonized. She prepared interview sheets for her client that include a chronology of his relationship with the Pope (dates and what happened when), bullet points about the Pope’s life and career, and quotes that my client has given over the years to newspapers. He will be prepared.

Your goal is to appear knowledgeable about your subject and self confident. Be prepared!

* Stand up when you talk to the reporter. It sounds simple, but people sound more alert and self confident when they speak standing up vs. sitting down!

* Get rest, go for a walk, whatever helps you be at your alert best.

* Try to be interviewed at the time of day that works best for you. See if you can work with the reporter to arrange your interview during the best time of day for you.

* Do NOT have a glass of wine or anything else to “relax you.” Believe it or not some people do this, and it’s a bad idea. It shows.

What else puts you in a good mood? Do it! You want to come across as happy and, again, self confident and knowledgeable.

Check out Bonnie’s web site and get on her email list. Make sure you hear about her latest projects and books!

 

New York State’s wagon women are Rosalie Jones, Elisabeth Freeman & Edna Kearns: a special for Women’s History Month

Rosalie Gardiner JonesThe “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage campaign wagon in the collection of the NYS Museum is a terrific jumping-off point when telling the suffrage story. New York State is not only the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the U.S., but New York has its three wagon women: Rosalie Jones, Elisabeth Freeman, and Edna Kearns. All three suffrage activists drove horse-drawn wagons on Long Island and beyond that figured prominently in suffrage activist tactics and strategies in the period from 1913 to about 1915.

Only one horse-drawn wagon used for grassroots campaigning remains from this period, and that’s the “Spirit of 1776″ used by Edna Kearns in the collection of the New York State Museum.

Rosalie and Elisabeth garnered considerable attention, especially in rural areas, when they traveled by wagon to Ohio and Washington, DC. Women traveling in a horse-drawn vehicle represented a novel attraction along the road, and it enabled face-to-face contact with many voters who otherwise would not have heard the women’s message.

See video on Rosalie Jones. Elisabeth Freeman’s great niece, Peg Johnston, has been telling Elisabeth’s story through a web site loaded with detail. Long Island historian Natalie Naylor considers suffragist Rosalie Jones one of her favorite characters from history. See Natalie Naylor’s book that features Roaslie Jones, as does the book on Long Island suffragists by Antonia Petrash.

And of course, there’s my grandmother Edna Kearns who has been inspiring me for years to learn more about the suffrage movement and spread the word through Suffrage Wagon News Channel. The great part is that Rosalie, Elisabeth and Edna worked together in the cause, and today we carry on the message of this early wave of voting activists.

They’re talking down in Washington, DC about a national women’s history museum

Congressional hearing on national women's history museumThe Committee on House Administration in the U.S. Congress held a hearing on December 11, 2013 to hear testimony about establishing a commission to study the creation of a national women’s museum in the nation’s Capitol. Online streaming brought the session to a broad audience across the country.

The Washington Post covered the hearing and published this report: #1. #2.

While this hearing represents a dramatic breakthrough for the idea of a national women’s museum whose advocates have never testified on this issue before, this campaign has a 15-year history. The testimony of three witnesses only confirmed what others have already discovered. It’s challenging to get support for women’s history and related issues. And, persistence pays off.

This is an example of how it’s necessary to work on simultaneous fronts and with partners to achieve important goals when bringing women’s history out of a dark closet where it has been on the back burner for decades.

Holiday news notes: December 2013

Follow the suffrage wagon with postings twice a week and newsletters four times a year. We also have YouTube and Vimeo channels.

Make traditional English scones: Video from Suffrage Wagon Cooking School

Scones from Suffrage Wagon Cooking SchoolAn old friend, Chef Cutting, dropped by the Suffrage Wagon Cooking School to show us how to prepare fresh English scones. Check in with the link.  He’s not only making them for Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, but also as a way to remember Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

November 12th is Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s birthday, and it’s also my mother Wilma’s birthday, Olivia Twine’s birthday, my goddaughter Alicia’s birthday, and I’m sure there are many more birthday celebrants out there.

Frederick Douglass & Susan B. AnthonyTea parties are very much part of the suffrage movement. I’ve seen photos of “Let’s Have Tea,” the statues of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony having tea, a project of the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood Association (artist Pepsy M. Kettavong) in Rochester, NY. Seeing these sculptures for myself was a highlight of the fall 2013 LetsRockTheCradle blogging tour of the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the Finger Lakes region of upstate NY. It made me think about how the month of November is a great time to dust off the old teapot, make scones from scratch and invite friends over.

These occasions are but two reasons why Chef Cutting’s instruction on English scones from Suffrage Wagon Cooking School fits perfectly into your plans to hold a tea party. And as someone with English roots himself, Chef Cutting reminds us that the English suffragettes were great tea house enthusiasts, as were their American sisters in the movement.

Suffrage Wagon Cooking School is but one reason to follow Suffrage Wagon News Channel. Our 4th birthday is coming soon, and we’ll be celebrating women’s freedom to vote. Also, 2013 is the centennial year of the “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage wagon’s first journey back in 1913. This year both houses of the New York State Legislature passed a resolution designating July 1, 2013 as “Wagon Day” in the State of New York. If you missed any of this news, you’ll find highlights in the Suffrage Wagon archive.

Can the Women’s Rights Trail become a reality?

by Marguerite Kearns and Olivia Twine (as published in New York History)

Street sign in Seneca Falls, NYThe federal government shutdown in Washington, DC may have dimmed the lights at the Elizabeth Cady Stanton house in Seneca Falls, NY, at the visitors’ center, Wesleyan Chapel, and other park site locations. But it didn’t deter our determination to continue on the blogging tour of the “Cradle of the Women’s Rights Movement in the US” that has kept us busy from late September into October 2013.

Seneca Falls took up most of our fourth day on this blogging tour that also included Johnstown, Fayetteville, Auburn, Rochester, and Farmington. Identifying what constitutes the “cradle” is an informal process we devised that highlights key locations of activism located in a geographic area of the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York that suggests a cradle shape.

These historic sites are within easy access of the New York State Thruway which makes the region an attractive and accessible destination for local, regional, national, and international travelers. Rest stops along the superhighway are loaded with state “Path Through History” leaflets and brochures, including one feature magazine where the photos of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony are prominently displayed.

At the present time there’s no definitive way to determine where to begin and end when navigating the “cradle.” Numerous historical sites in this region could qualify as destinations on a journey through this hotbed of free-thought movements.

3-StatueSenecaVisitorsCenter-300x160

We had to be realistic about what could be accomplished in a short time. Regular travelers would likely cover the territory more quickly and efficiently, while we lugged heavy camera equipment, lingered to photograph sites, and speak to as many people as possible along the way.

We purchased books, t-shirts, ate in local diners, and in our own way contributed to supporting the Finger Lakes region that has considerable strengths in history, arts and culture, colonial and abolitionist resources, Native American culture, an attractive landscape, and much more.

Seneca Falls, NY is a key site in the “cradle”. It’s the location of the 1848 convention that’s considered the jumping off point for the first wave of the US women’s rights movement. Other important historic sites, events, and themes are also associated with philosophical and political movements stirring the region and its residents throughout the 19th century.

Women’s rights activists were extremely active in abolition and temperance, which could have easily distracted us when our instinct was to race off in the direction of anything and everything that remotely seemed interesting. Even settling on a few representative locations still resulted in a whirlwind trip leaving us exhausted but more certain than ever about one thing.

The promotion and development of the “cradle” should be an important and essential priority for New York in its efforts to stimulate the upstate economy and lay the groundwork for a campaign to put the state in the forefront of travel destinations during the 2020 national suffrage centennial celebrating the 19th amendment to the US Constitution.

Back in 1848 there were many challenges facing the women who wrote and promoted the Declaration of Sentiments declaring that all men and women are created equal. The tasks facing those who promote the “cradle” remain equally daunting today.

Belt tightening at the Seneca Falls national park site has been ongoing for some time. Federal employees have been called upon to do more with limited resources. And uncertainty about additional funding for a Votes for Women History Trail only adds to the complexities associated with doing more for less money or nothing at all.

The Votes for Women trail is a proposed federal initiative that would highlight 20 historic sites, including many of those on our own “cradle” blogging tour this fall. In addition, New York State has an incomplete women’s heritage trail initiative that encompasses more than the suffrage movement. Funding to complete this state trail is supported by many New Yorkers, but whether or not funding is possible during future legislative sessions in Albany remains to be seen.

The creation of a federally-funded Votes for Women auto trail doesn’t involve the pouring of concrete, the construction of new roadways, the erection of bridges, or a delivery of bricks for new buildings. It remains, however, a significant undertaking that has advanced to the stakeholder criteria phase. A Votes for Women trail has the potential of manifesting the vision of a clearly-identified “cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the US. But realistically, what are its chances of success?

An optimistic interpretation of the significance of reaching the stakeholder phase is by no means assured without additional federal funding. Some commentators question if completing this stakeholder criteria phase is an identifiable accomplishment that’s able to propel a drive to attract more visitors (and new revenues) to New York. Others suggest that reaching the stakeholder phase may simply represent a dead end.

“We really don’t know what it means,” says Noemi “Ami” Ghazala, acting superintendent of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. “The criteria may sit there for a short time or remain there for years.” When Ghazala took on the position of acting superintendent of the federal park in August of 2012, the annual Seneca Falls visitation numbers were at 20,000. In one year under Ghazala’s watch, this number has increased 40 percent to 29,000.

The increased visitation numbers involved considerable effort and outreach, Ghazala explains, including appearances in schools, state fair visitations, and a focus on increasing the numbers. When Ghazala gazes into her crystal ball to the year 2017 (the centennial of women voting in NYS), she sees support and interest in the state centennial, though how a statewide celebration will manifest is less clear.

“Whatever happens, we’ll do our best here at the park. I emphasize to groups that raise the question of a state or national centennial that it’s important to work smarter. Let’s stop duplicating our efforts. If one organization has an event, let’s all of us go to it. We can all use the support. None of us has the resources to pull off a big celebration.”

For more information about the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the United States, visit LetsRockTheCradle.com 

Photos: Street sign in Seneca Falls, NY outside the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Statue in national park visitors’ center. Images by Marguerite Kearns.

A visit to Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s hometown in Johnstown, NY

Nancy Brown of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown AssociationBy Marguerite Kearns and Olivia Twine

It’s late afternoon in Johnstown, NY, magic hour, right before sunset when filmmakers capture the best lighting. Nancy Brown, a fifth grade teacher, is waiting to take us to the local historical society and out to dinner with three other board members of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association.

This is the town where well-known women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton grew up. The place is also loaded with history of the American Revolution, plus generations of tanners and workers in the glove industry who lived and worked here. We can’t get to the Johnstown Historical Society at 17 North William Street without passing sites of major historical interest. It’s as if everybody is related in some way to this historical community. It looks like classic small town America, made in America.

The Historical Society building has a front parlor room that’s devoted entirely to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with things to die for: her piano, her chair, her father’s bookcase, her family bible. They have sleuths volunteering for the board who ferret out facts about the Cady family never known before. Elizabeth’s parents and many of her relatives are buried in the local cemetery. Local people here talk about Elizabeth Cady Stanton as if they’re related to her. And they are. Like they’re first cousins or neighbors.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton's piano

Today the activists of the local historical and hometown association understand the value of what they’ve got in their cultural heritage and they’re building it up from the grassroots.

Yet they feel there’s something lacking, despite the fact that Johnstown has the oldest working courthouse in America, the same courthouse where Elizabeth’s father was a judge. This is an area with strong women, well-known local women, including Molly Brant, Rose Knox, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and a Native American Catholic saint, Kateri Tekakwitha.

Johnstown has a strong revolutionary history, a strong labor history. By going to the next level, the two local organizations are moving into the future by developing awareness through advertizing, street signs, a social media presence, collaboration and partnering. They have organized themselves thoroughly, and the town reflects this with its banners, cell phone tour, and exhibits including one at the local bank, the site of the Cady home where Elizabeth grew up.

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Women’s Consortium, the umbrella of women’s organizations including the hometown association, is planning a symposium in 2015 to honor the year of Cady Stanton’s 200th birthday.

And still, something is missing. Ask them what they need, and there’s no question in their minds.

“The greatest gift the State could give us would be to fund a Votes for Women history trail,” said Nancy Brown of the Hometown Association. “A trail has been established, but there’s no funding.”

And what else is missing? They say that other historical-related groups located in the “cradle” are worthy, energetic, and well organized, but there’s no unity among the separate organizations. These associations of people may work together and share information, but there’s a recognized need to make a focused effort to get a trail funded that would be good for the state and visitors on a number of levels.

Emphasized Helen Martin of the historical society: “Money for a historical trail is desperately needed. Money –that’s the biggest gift the state could give us. There’s so much potential, like I could see a big convention of womens’ groups in New York State, maybe at the state fairgrounds. Some place where we can celebrate women’s past, get media coverage and press, get the right speakers.”

“We must pull together,” added Nancy Brown. “Look at all that needs to be done!”

“We know our past; we know where we are. But where are we going?” posits Helen Martin. “Let’s break that glass ceiling!”

These community grassroots organizers are aware of what can be accomplished by themselves and the value of working together with others to reach a goal. This involves rocking the cradle.

As we made our way back to the Holiday Inn from the Union Hall Inn Restaurant and dinner with Hometown Association board members Bonnie Valachovic, Barb Taylor, Sandy Maceyka, and Nancy Brown, we asked about their goal. We were told: “…to be the home of women’s equality by 2020.” But isn’t this competing with Seneca Falls? “Oh no,” they said.

“We complement Seneca Falls and other places and sites. There’s no doubt in our minds that Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s experience in Johnstown as a young person made her the revolutionary thinker she was.”

The Johnstown Historical Society at 17 North William Street, Johnstown, NY is open weekends 1-4 p.m., Memorial Day through September. Or by appointment 518-762-7076.

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association has a one-hour, one-mile cell phone tour called “Walking the Footsteps of Elizabeth Cady Stanton,” plus events, exhibits, banners and signs throughout the town. They also have a fabulous web site: http://ElizabethCadyStantonHometown.org

Follow Marguerite and Olivia on their travels for LetsRockTheCradle.

Photos: Top is a photo of Nancy Brown of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association featuring an image of one of Johnston, NY’s historic landmarks. Below is Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s piano at the Johnstown Historical Society.