National Parks - New York

Women’s Rights National Historical Park

Saturday’s adventures were all about incredible women. We started our day with a short drive to Seneca Falls, and visited the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. Seneca Falls is one of those places that I’ve always thought about checking out, because it also has the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum, and of course the George Bailey bridge…

(Spoiler alert: George Bailey totally could have survived a jump from this bridge. Sorry, Clarence.)

And I’m kicking myself a bit for not visiting sooner, because Seneca Falls is an adorable little town, and it’s only a little over an hour away from home. But we only had time to hit the Women’s Rights NHP Saturday morning, so we have an excuse to go back to hit up the other two places.

We started our visit with the Wesleyan Chapel, and walking into it is a sobering experience. It’s such a simple and humble place, but I was a bit overwhelmed by the thought that I was standing in the same place where Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and so many other strong women stood on July 19 and 20, 1848 and delivered the “Declaration of Sentiments” at the First Women’s Rights Convention. I feel like I owe those women, and the men who supported their “radical” ideas, so much. Being able to vote is something that you take for granted in 2024. It’s hard to imagine, as a women living now, that we had to fight so hard for so long to get that right. I will forever be indebted to them.

Excerpt from the Declaration of Sentiments, 1848

“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.

We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves, by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.”

In this photo you can see the original brick work in the lower-right corner, with the new brick from the restoration around it.

The most recent restoration of the Wesleyan Chapel began in 2009, and has brought it back as close as is possible to the way it looked in the 1840s. There is a good history of the chapel and its rehabilitation available here, where I was surprised to find out that in the 1870s, after the church was sold, it spent various amounts of time as movie theater, grocery store, furniture store, New York State Telephone office building, roller-skating rink, Ford Dealership, laundromat, and an apartment building before the National Park Service purchased the property in 1985.

Lucretia Mott greets you as you enter the chapel, and I made sure to thank her on the way out.

When we were done in the chapel, we headed next door to the Visitor Center and looked around at all of their exhibits. It’s quite an extensive display, taking up part of the first floor and all of the second floor. When you enter, you are greeted by this stunning display of statues titled, “The First Wave.”

Heading upstairs, you can see the current exhibit, “Radical Optimism: The Enduring Power of Women Who Won the Vote.” I snapped some pics of my favorite bits…

While you’re there, be sure to watch the film “Dreams of Equality” in the Guntzel Theater. I had planned to see that when we first arrived, but it was in the middle of a showing, so we saved it for the end.

And, we of course spent some time in the gift shop. Well, actually I spent some time in the gift shop while Vance went to get the car and move it closer. There was so much good stuff to be had in their shop, and I had to force myself to choose just a few things. I got my patch, postcard, and pin of course. My biggest splurge was this really soft v-neck t-shirt.

After leaving the Visitor Center, we hopped in the car and made a couple of quick stops. The first was Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s house, the “Center of the Rebellion,” just about a mile away. It’s open for tours a couple of times per day, but we weren’t lucky enough to be there at the right time, so we just poked around and looked in the windows.

Next, we made a short drive to Waterloo to see the M’Clintock House, where on July 16, 1848, Mary Ann M’Clintock, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, which would be presented at the Wesleyan Chapel a few days later. We arrived at the house during the designated tour time, but alas, there was nobody there, so again we just looked around a bit.

Once we were done at the M’Clintock House, we headed off to the afternoon’s adventures, but that will have to wait for the next post. 🙂

Info for other National Park geeks:

Cancellations available:

  • Women’s Rights NHP
  • Wesleyan Chapel
  • Underground RR Network to Freedom
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton House
  • M’Clintock House
  • Erie Canalway NHC

Junior Ranger: yes

B.A.R.K. Ranger: no

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