March is Women’s History Month, a time to reflect on all that women have accomplished throughout our country’s history. One of the most important events in women’s history took place in the Northeast: The Seneca Falls Convention, held in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848, was the first U.S. women’s rights convention.
If you want to revisit this important chapter in women’s history, Seneca Falls is the place to go. Here are some of the top sites to visit in and around the area.
Women’s Rights National Historical Park
The Women’s Rights National Historical Park is home to Wesleyan Chapel – where the convention was held, the Waterwall at Declaration Park, the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House and a visitor center.
More than 300 early feminists, including Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Frederick Douglass, attended the Seneca Falls Convention, considered to be the beginning of the American women’s rights movement. The chapel was a meeting place for abolitionists and political activists, so for the feminists who lived in Seneca Falls it was the logical place to stage their convention.
The Waterwall at Declaration Park is a 100-foot-long water feature inscribed with the words of the Declaration of Sentiments, the founding document of the women’s rights movement which was drafted at the convention. The water feature and surrounding park is intended to invite the viewer to reflect on these important words and how far we have come since then.
You can also visit the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House, the home of the convention’s organizer and the primary author of the Declaration of Sentiments. She called her home the “Center of the Rebellion.”
Park rangers offers talks and guided tours of the park to highlight various sites and provide historical context.
National Women’s Hall of Fame
Located in the historic Seneca Knitting Mill, the National Women’s Hall of Fame celebrates important, innovative and inspiring American women. It holds special exhibits on inductees like Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Helen Keller, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and more. The hall includes a research center, complete with a library and archival materials about the inductees. You can also learn about the history of the Seneca Knitting Mill itself, the women who worked there, and how Seneca Falls became the site of such radical change.
Seneca Falls Heritage Area
The Seneca Falls Heritage Area preserves the history of the town of Seneca Falls, and examines the role it played in the reform movements of the 19th century. It also preserves the classic main street and several historic homes. The Heritage Area Visitor Center offers a historical overview of the town and the wider Finger Lakes region. You can learn about the development of the Finger Lakes, the rise of waterpower, the Erie Canal, the local industries, the history of transportation and, of course, the women’s rights movement. Their Women’s Rights and Reform section even includes a life-size statue of Elizabeth Cady Stanton sitting at her writing desk. It’s a great place to get a quick overview of everything that’s taken place in Seneca Falls, and the lasting impact of those movements.
Seneca Falls isn’t the only women’s history landmark in upstate New York. If you have time, Rochester also has many sites dedicated to the women’s suffrage movement, including the National Susan B. Anthony House and Museum, Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Bridge and Mt. Hope Cemetery, the final resting place of many suffragettes and abolitionists.
Want to walk in the footsteps of another woman who made history? The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park isn’t too far away. Auburn is home to Harriet Tubman’s home, the Harriet Tubman Visitor Center, the Tubman Home for the Aged and the Thompson Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
What landmark from women’s history would you like to visit? Have you ever been to one of these historic sites? Let us know in the comments below!