Seneca County: Women's Rights National Park

As we approach the 100th anniversary of suffrage in New York, a look at the importance of the Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, NY.

By Ranger Kyle Harvey
I am a Park Ranger at Women's Rights National Historical Park. As most of you will already know, we focus on the First Women's Rights Convention which took place here in Seneca Falls in 1848. This convention, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott among others, lit a flame in the hearts of its participants. Soon the flame spread and there were many more conventions, laws were rewritten, minds were changed, and bit by bit women began to tip the scales of justice closer to even.

As a Park Ranger stationed here I greet visitors, create programs, and give guided tours of our resources. This last year has been a tumultuous time in the hearts of our guests. We witnessed history as the first female major party candidate ran for president and was defeated.

While women have not yet reached true equality in America, we have come a long way. As we approach the 100th anniversary of suffrage in New York I would like to take a look at what this National Park means to its visitors today.

It has been 169 years since the First Women's Rights Convention took place here, yet this place still elicits many of the same strong emotions that it always has. To many of our guests a visit to Seneca Falls is a nearly religious experience; the tears begin to fall before they enter the building and they do not abate until they leave these hallowed spaces.

Women come here to reignite the flames of passion, parents come to start a spark in the hearts of their daughters, and to give their sons a perspective that many have forgotten.

I'm finally here…it's been a decades long dream!!!” –Guestbook
One of my most favorite places in the world!” –Guestbook
Happy to visit this National Park on father's day! (I'm a dad)” -Guestbook
Love to have finally reached where it all began!” –Guestbook

While some of our visitors are fulfilling a lifelong goal, or reaffirming an enduring commitment by coming here, others visit not knowing what to expect. They are brought here by mothers and wives, teachers and friends, and upon arrival there can sometimes be heard groans of protest. Frequently husbands or sons will arrive looking bored but by the time they leave their eyes are alight with interest. One unhappy husband recently arrived complaining, as his wife had brought him here, but after their visit he came up to us to say that, “This was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Didn't know this existed. Wonderful info and inspirations!” -Guestbook

Some of the most passionate of our guests question the rangers: Why is there not a greater focus on (insert one of the countless women who have pushed these issues forward)?

Our guests come to appreciate what heroes like the M'Clintocks, Hunts, and Motts did here in the past but most are more focused on where we go from here.

Lots of progress made, lots more to go!” –Guestbook

A future feminist is born (Rosie is 3 mo. old).” –Guestbook

Elizabeth Cady Stanton lived in a time when women could not vote, hold political office, or even have shared custody of their children. Women like her and countless others have dedicated their lives to help right these wrongs. Over the generations people have been coming back to places like Seneca Falls to build off of the past. Alice Paul came in 1923 to introduce the Equal Rights Amendment, more recently Nadia Shahram introduced “The Declaration of Equalities for Muslim Women” in the same place that Stanton introduced her “Declaration of Sentiments”.

As the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in New York approaches it is important to take note of places like Seneca Falls. They provide us with a glimpse into the past to show us how far we have come and where we still need to go.

The history of the past is but one long struggle upward to equality.” –Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Visit the Women's Rights National Park website to learn more about the historic role of Seneca Falls, NY.
Click here for information about NYSAC's Women's Leadership Council.