The anniversary of the New York victory for woman suffrage (1917-2017) in the not too distant future is prompting proud talk of our state as “the cradle of women’s rights,” which is true enough but only half the story. The phrase refers specifically to the revolutionary movement that began in the small northern town of Seneca Falls in 1848 and was propelled by visionaries like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Frederick Douglass.
That early movement was “cradled,” as in “nourished in its infancy,” by geography. Cities and towns like Rochester and Seneca Falls were the “north star” of the Underground Railroad, places packed with Abolitionists and Quakers and radicals of all stripes. The population nurtured the young women’s movement and provided a base from which its standard-bearers could venture forth to persuade the rest of the nation. Continue reading
In the town of Mount Kisco in Westchester County, there is a small graveyard known as the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Cemetery, after the two successive Episcopal churches that once stood there. Established in the 1760s, the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the American Revolution. In the late 18th century, the small wooden St. George’s Church was one of the few man-made structures in a sparsely populated area that was transformed into a hostile wilderness with the onset of war.
Accordingly, the church was used by American, British, and French armies as a landmark in their journeys through Westchester County. General Washington’s troops retreated to the church to tend to the wounded and bury the slain after the Battle of White Plains in 1776; Colonel Tarleton brought his army to the church on the eve of the Burning of Bedford in 1779; and in the summer of 1781 the Comte de Rochambeau’s army camped near the church prior to the meeting with Washington that would ultimately bring their combined forces to victory at Yorktown. Continue reading
In 1835, in the small community of Brownville, a few miles west of Watertown, was born a young girl who would one day impact the lives of countless thousands. Nancy “Nettie” Fowler, the daughter of store owners Melzar and Clarissa (Spicer) Fowler, was the victim of tragic circumstances at an early age. In the year of Nettie’s birth, the family moved 13 miles northwest to Depauville. On a trip from there to Watertown, Melzar died after being kicked in the head by an unruly horse.
Nettie was less than a year old (her brother, Eldridge, was two). Clarissa ran the family business while raising two small children, but seven years later, she died as well. Nettie was raised in the home of her grandmother and uncle in Clayton, on the St. Lawrence River. The household’s strong Christian bent would have a lasting effect on her future. Continue reading
Here’s a quick look at some of the latest New York history resources to hit the web:
The Bronx Zoo is digitizing three dozen scrapbooks of its first director, William Temple Hornaday (from 1896 to 1926). The work is being done with a grant from the Leon Levy Foundation. The zoo director promoted habitat preservation worldwide, and the scrapbooks include letters, postcards, legal briefs, newspaper clippings and pamphlets. His involvement in the infamous Ota Benga scandal in 1906 is not recorded. Hornaday died in 1937. The collection can be found at the Wildlife Conservation Society Library and Archives website. Continue reading
Women have been part of Long Island’s past for thousands of years but are nearly invisible in the records and history books. From pioneering doctors to dazzling aviatrixes, author Natalie A. Naylor brings these larger-than-life but little-known heroines out of the lost pages of island history in Women in Long Island’s Past: A History of Eminent Ladies and Everyday Lives (History Press, 2012).
Anna Symmes Harrison, Julia Gardiner Tyler, Edith Kermit Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt all served as first lady of the United States, and all had Long Island roots. Beloved children’s author Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote The Secret Garden here, and hundreds of local suffragists fought for their right to vote in the early twentieth century. Continue reading
It’s the centennial year of abolitionist and suffragist Harriet Tubman’s death in 1913. Her Auburn, NY house, the home for the aged she founded on the property, and the museum attract considerable attention in upstate New York. We visited the Tubman historic site on the fifth day of our fall 2013 blogging tour of the “Cradle of the women’s rights movement in the US.” Continue reading
Nursing Friends of Susan B. Anthony House invites all members of the nursing profession to a professional nursing seminar, “Founding a New Professional Nursing Association for New York State: The History of ANA-NY” with keynote speaker, Dianne Cooney Miner, Ph.D., RN, Dean of Wegmans School of Nursing at St. John Fisher College.
The event takes place on Saturday, November 16, 2013 from 10 to 11 a.m. in the Susan B. Anthony House Carriage House (behind the Visitors Center at 19 Madison Street) in Rochester, NY. Seating is limited, so make your reservations right away by calling Sylvia Schenck at 585-338-7988. The registration fee is $5.00 and will be collected at the door on November 16. Parking is available on both sides of Madison Street that morning from 9 a.m. until noon just for the seminar. Continue reading
No Votes for Women: The New York State Anti-Suffrage Movement (Univ. of Illinois Press, 2013) explores the complicated history of the suffrage movement in New York State by delving into the stories of women who opposed the expansion of voting rights to women.
Author Susan Goodier makes the case that, contrary to popular thought, women who opposed suffrage were not against women’s rights. Instead, conservative women who fought against suffrage encouraged women to retain their distinctive feminine identities as protectors of their homes and families, a role they felt was threatened by the imposition of masculine political responsibilities. Continue reading
The significant events in New York State history are well known to educators, students and New Yorkers alike. But often, the role that women played in these events has been overlooked.
In Remarkable Women in New York State History (History Press, 2013), Edited by Helen Engel and Marilynn Smiley, members of the American Association of University Women in New York State have meticulously researched the lives and actions of more than 300 of New York’s finest women. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
The unveiling of the Sojourner Truth statue in the town of Esopus, NY where the abolitionist preacher was held a slave as a child, was a remarkable experience. I’ve lived in the Hudson Valley County of Ulster all my life and have never witnessed the “owning” of the shameful past of slavery before. Truth’s statue in the Esopus hamlet of Port Ewen represents the only statue in the world of a child slave at work, according to Ulster County Historian Anne Gordon. Continue reading
On November 8 and 9, 2013, Cayuga Community College in Auburn, NY will host “Harriet Tubman: No Longer Underground,” a two-day symposium marking the centennial of the death of Harriet Tubman in 1913.
Co-Sponsored by the Harriet Tubman Boosters Club, the Seward House Museum, and the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, the symposium will celebrate the life and work of the heroic African American woman who escaped slavery, conducted other slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad, served the Union Army during the Civil War, and worked as a humanitarian and advocate for women’s rights throughout the 50 years she lived in Auburn. Continue reading
A newly minted bronze statue of celebrated abolitionist and human rights advocate Sojourner Truth as a child slave at work will be installed in Port Ewen, in the Town of Esopus, Ulster County on September 21. The statue and an interpretive sign will be installed on a plaza on the corner of 9W and Salem Street.
Sojourner Truth was born in into slavery in Swartekill, just north of present-day Rifton in Esopus. Her parents had been enslaved in Africa and purchased by Col. Johannes Hardenbergh. She was born as Isabella Baumfree in about 1797, and lived the first 30 years of her life in Ulster County, taking the name Sojourner Truth in the 1840s. She is best known today for her speech “Ain’t I A Woman?’, which she delivered off-hand at the 1851 Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. She died in Michigan in 1883. Continue reading
The only living witness to Susan B. Anthony’s life is a 150 year-old Horse Chestnut Tree that still shades her family’s front yard in Rochester, N.Y. It personifies the gutsy woman people called Aunt Susan who loved her home and devoted her life to fighting for women’s rights and suffrage. The Tree has received a “Hero of Horticulture” award from The Cultural Landscape Foundation (http://tclf.org). “Hero” Trees are associated with great people and significant moments in American history.
Back when the vision of women voting seemed an impossible dream, Susan B. Anthony endured hardship and ridicule while waging a tireless campaign for gender equality. Her heart stayed home, however, along with her roots. Anthony personally defended the Horse Chestnut Tree against threats from a road project. Now its rustling leaves resonate in the hearts of visitors to the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House. (www.susanbanthonyhouse.org) Continue reading
Director Pamela Green and Co-Director Jarik Van Sluijs, nominated for an Emmy as co-producers for the 2010 documentary Bhutto, are in the last week of a Kickstarter campaign to raise financing for their documentary-in-the-making about an early New York film director, Be Natural: The untold story of Alice Guy-Blaché.
In 1895, 23-year-old Alice Guy was invited to the Lumière Brothers’ screening. In 1896, at the age of 23 she made one of the first narrative films in history. A year later, she became the first head of production at Gaumont’s studios. Alice went on to to start her own studio in Flushing, New York in 1910, Solax. She wrote, directed, or produced more than a 1,000 films over her 20-year-long career, but is little remembered today. Continue reading
Charlotte Smith of St. Lawrence County was a women’s rights activist with few equals. From the 1870s through the turn of the century, she was among the most famous and visible women in America, battling endlessly for anything and everything that might improve the status of women. No matter what the issue―unemployment, unfair treatment in hiring, deadbeat dads, the plight of single mothers―Charlotte was on the front lines, fearlessly facing down politicians at all levels.
In the 1890s, she also staked out some positions that appeared difficult to defend, but Smith’s single-mindedness gave her the impetus to continue. The bane of women in America held her attention for years, but in modern times, it’s unlikely that any of us would guess its identity based on Charlotte’s description. Continue reading
The American Civil War represents the first time that a staggering number of women, from both the North and the South, disguised themselves as soldiers to fight for their country. Lisa Potocar present a program about these women and their motivations at Schenectady County Historical Society September 12th.
Lisa Potocar was born and raised in Upstate New York. Potocar’s historical novel about female Civil War soldiers, Sweet Glory, won First Place in the Young Adult category of the 2009 Maryland Writers’ Association’s and SouthWest Writers’ Novel Contests. It also advanced as a semi-finalist in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough (YA) Novel Awards. Continue reading
In the world of women’s rights, there has been great progress across many issues that are still being debated. A North Country native stands at the forefront of the ongoing battle, taking on a number of concerns: jobs for single mothers; equal pay for equal work; the negative effects of drugs and cigarettes on young women; the horrors of trafficking in women for sexual purposes; food labeling; the restriction of food additives; the rights to patented and copyrighted works; women’s ability to serve in the military; and the issues faced by families of soldiers serving overseas.
If you follow the news, you’ll recognize most of those topics from current or recent headlines. They are the very same issues that were current between 1880 and 1900, when St. Lawrence County’s Charlotte Smith was American’s groundbreaking and leading reformer in the fight for women’s rights. Continue reading
The annual Susan B. Anthony Festival will be held on Sunday, August 18, 2013 from noon to 5 p.m. in the Susan B. Anthony Square Park between Madison and King streets in Rochester to celebrate the 93nd anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women throughout the country the right to vote.
Music and entertainment will be provided throughout the afternoon in the park. Food vendors and unique crafts vendors will sell their goods. Free walking tours of this historic 19th century Historic Preservation District will also be offered. Tours of the Anthony House will be available beginning at 11 a.m. at the special admission price that day only of $5.00 for all ages. Continue reading