Of course, women’s suffrage and civil rights aren’t the only areas where New York and its women have played important roles. Those looking to celebrate Women’s History Month in March can learn more about important New York women in fields from education to entertainment at museums and historic sites around the state.
The Path Through History program, recently introduced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, makes it easier than ever to explore women’s heritage sites. Women’s Rights is one of 12 themes used to organize 700-plus heritage sites across the state. Information, including a list of sites with information about each one can be found at http://iloveny.com/Winter/Themes/Path-Through-History.aspx and http://www.governor.ny.gov/assets/documents/PTHToursbyThemefinal.pdf. Path Through History will be celebrated with more than 200 events throughout the state on June 1-2 and 7-8, so be sure to check back for more information.
Several of the key Women’s Rights sites along the Path Through History are highlighted below, as well as other locales honoring the contributions of women.
The life of a Pioneer Woman. The Adirondack Museum (Blue Mountain Lake), one of the largest museums in upstate New York, is closed for the winter, 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) will feature an exhibit with photos of paintings entitled “Glorious Paintings by Women in the 18th Century” throughout March, as well as offer a special program focusing on women’s roles in the Battle of Saratoga and food preparation in the 18th century on March 10.
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, and 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 (opens March 2) 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 www.harriettubmanboosters.org, or phone 315-252-2081.
Women in the Arts. The 6th Annual Festival of Women in the Arts, a community collaboration between schools and cultural organizations, will feature concerts, theater, dance, visual art, lectures, poetry and other literature readings focused on women throughout Chemung, Steuben and Schuyler Counties in New York’s Finger Lakes Wine Country throughout March.
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. The site of the first chapter, started by Clara 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.
Wonder Women of Greater Niagara. Charlotte Mulligan, educator and founder of the Guard of Honor, Louise Bethune, one of America’s first female architects, Mary Talbert, orator and civil rights activist, and other notable Buffalo women will be the subject of an entertaining and informative trolley tour on March 16, 2013 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The tour, organized by the Buffalo History Museum in collaboration with Forest Lawn, will include lunch at the Pan American Grill and Brewery. Reservations are required. Call 716-873-9644, ext. 0.
The General’s Lady. It was in the farmhouse at Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Park in Newburgh that 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 March 23, 2013.
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 Thursday through Monday until May with tours at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Call 845-229-9422 for updates.
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 lecture about “The Women’s Club Movement” at King Manor Museum in Queens. For reservations, call 718-206-0545, ext. 13.
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, ext. 10 for more details.
The Next Frontier. June 28, 1969 marked a big step towards civil rights for gays and lesbians; for the first time, gays and lesbians, patrons and neighbors of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village stood their ground against what had become regular harassment of gay clubs by police. Rioting ensued, followed by days of demonstrations which spread to several blocks surrounding the club. Participants demanded equal rights for gays under the law. The protest, now known as the “Stonewell Rebellion,” was a seminal event for the gay pride and gay rights movements. The Stonewall Inn and its neighborhood are now a National Historic Landmark, recognizing their important role in the modern civil rights movement and struggle for LGBT equality.
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.
About Path Through History
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 12 themes including: Arts & Culture, Natural History, U.S. Presidents, Women’s Rights, Canals & Transportation, Civil Rights, Colonial History, Innovation & Commerce, The Revolution, 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://iloveny.com/Winter/Themes/Path-Through-History.aspx.
About New York State
New York State features 11 beautiful vacation regions. New York’s attractions span from landmarks such as Niagara Falls to the wine trails of Hudson Valley and treasures like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Whether it’s wide-ranging outdoor activities for the whole family like ice-fishing, snowmobiling, skiing and snowboarding, culinary wonders and farm-to-table fresh foods, or the rich history and culture of one of the 13 original colonies, New York State offers big excitement and tons activities for all travelers. For more information, visit http://www.iloveny.com/winter for all of our winter activities. Media can find press releases and more at thebeat.iloveny.com.