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
One hundred years ago on July 1, 1913, Votes for Women activists Edna Kearns, Irene Davison, and eight -year-old Serena Kearns left Manhattan from the headquarters of the NYS Woman Suffrage association and headed to Long Island in the horse-drawn wagon called the “Spirit of 1776.” They spent the next month organizing in many communities to gather support for women voting. The wagon and its journey were covered by many New York City and Long Island newspapers.
Four years later in 1917, New York’s women finally won the franchise. This was followed by the vote being extended to millions of American women nationwide in 1920 and the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Continue reading
The sturdy wooden wagon on display in the New York State capital last summer was the centerpiece of an exhibit called “From Seneca Falls to the Supreme Court; New York’s Women Leading the Way.” Unheard of in 1776 and unsecured until 1920, the women’s vote has become critical to candidates’ success.
The suffrage movement of the early 20th century evokes the stamina and discernment needed to address the overwhelming values crisis that’s challenging the American spirit now. Continue reading
Olympia Brown made U.S. history in the North Country 150 years ago, early this summer. She became the first woman to become a fully ordained minister with a degree from a regularly established theological school. Olympia was ordained in the Universalist Church of Malone by the St. Lawrence Association of Universalists on June 25, 1863 and graduated from the St. Lawrence University Theological School in Canton two weeks later, on July 9, 1863.
Throughout the remainder of her 91-year-old life, she was an outspoken Universalist preacher and a fearless campaigner for suffrage and equal rights for women. Olympia marched, lectured, testified, published, protested and picketed a myriad of times from coast to coast. Continue reading
Women’s Rights National Historical Park will offer a special program and kick-off event “1964 Civil Rights Act Revisited” with park ranger Jamie Wolfe and volunteer Harlene Gilbert on June 22 at 11:00 AM in the Wesleyan Chapel.
In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Women’s Rights National Historical Park will sponsor a year-long series of programs titled “Keep the Dream Alive” Events. The kick-off program will correspond with the introduction of the most prominent civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. Continue reading
At least twenty-six newspaper articles published around the nation in 1868 reported the existence of women’s baseball clubs. Thanks to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and an anonymous reporter, the baseball club in Peterboro was the best documented of the women’s teams in the 1860s. During a three week visit in August 1868 at the Peterboro home of her cousin, abolitionist Gerrit Smith, Stanton wrote three letters for her women’s rights publication The Revolution. Continue reading
The same “prove or disprove” mission I undertook to investigate Mary Johnson’s claims (to have passed as a man and fought in the Civil War) was attempted by Eleanor Vashon after interviewing Mary Johnson in 1924. Several parties were involved: a pension attorney; the Massachusetts adjutant general; the Daughters of Veterans; the Convent of St. Rock, Quebec; the Canadian Red Cross; the Tewksbury Hospital; and acquaintances of Mary with whom she had shared the unusual story of her life.
The Red Cross managed to confirm that Thomas Hill indeed served in the Massachusetts 53rd, but found no record of a Saul Hill in the same outfit. They did find a Joseph Saul, and considering Mary’s age and her earlier jumbling of General Nelson Miles as Mills Nelson, the similarity was noted as a possible link. Continue reading
In Lowell, Massachusetts in 1922, while working in a private home, Mrs. Mary Johnson was badly injured in a fall. At the age of 82, with few resources at her disposal, neither Mary nor her husband Peter could care for themselves. During the next two years, the couple resided in three different poorhouses, living at Fitchburg and Tewksbury before moving to the Worcester City Farm. At Fitchburg, Mrs. Johnson had begun telling stories about her secret war past, and at Worcester, folks began to take her seriously.
According to Mary, she had served honorably in two branches of military service, most notably a stint during the Civil War. Combat was reserved for men only, but Mary openly shared the details, insisting her story was true. Continue reading
Religious differences are often the root causes of war, and in 1870 Utah, that’s what dominated politics. Unlike most of the nation, Utah had no Democratic or Republican parties. Instead, it was the Liberals (the anti-Mormons) versus the People’s Party (the Mormons). Eventually playing a fateful role in the outcome was a North Country man, George Montgomery Scott, a successful businessman in the territory.
The anti-Mormons made gains over the years, particularly in Tooele County, which became known as the Republic of Tooele when residents voted the Liberals into power for a five-year period. During that time, it created an odd situation. Tooele leaders, under the Liberal flag, instituted women’s suffrage. Continue reading
The early history of the AIDS epidemic in New York City—from the first rumors in 1981 of a “gay plague” through the ensuing period of intense activism, clinical research, and political struggle—will be the subject of a major new exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, AIDS in New York: The First Five Years, on view from June 7 through September 15, 2013.
With a wealth of materials drawn from New-York Historical’s archives as well as the archives of the New York Public Library, New York University, and the National Archive of LGBT History, the exhibition will use artifacts including clinicians’ notes, journal entries, diaries, letters, audio and video clips, posters, photographs, pamphlets, and newspapers to revisit the impact of the epidemic on personal lives and public culture in New York City and the nation.