They'll be plenty to celebrate in 2020 when the country commemorates the passing of the 19th Amendment, but here in New York we get to start partying a bit early.
Women across the country earned the right to vote by constitutional amendment in 1920, but in New York the state legislature took matters into their own hands a bit earlier, passing a law allowing women access to the ballot in 1917. It was in November of the following year when females in New York first exercised that right.
The place to learn and absorb all this history is in Seneca Falls, a small hamlet in the central park of the state, about 170 miles west of Schenectady. That's where the women's rights movement essentially got started in 1848 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a Johnstown native, joined forces with a group of local Quaker women to host the Seneca Falls Convention and produce their "Declaration of Sentiments."
Looking into all this history is a great way to spend the day, and in Seneca Falls there are three main sites that even looked at alone would make the trip worth it. There's the National Women's Hall of Fame at 76 Fall Street in the town, the Women's Rights National Historical Park at 136 Fall Street, and the Seneca Falls Historical Society at 55 Cayuga Street.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton shared this house with her husband, Henry, and their seven children. (Provided)
The National Women's Hall of Fame has been around since 1973 and since then has inducted 266 women into its Hall of Fame, including Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the other major figure in the women's suffrage movement. The facility is not-for-profit entity, with just four paid staff members and a host of enthusiastic volunteers. It is open Sunday through Tuesday from noon-4 p.m. and Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for students and seniors (65 and over) and free for children under 5.
"We have a docent greet people and offer a short introduction explaining the history of the Hall, and then visitors can peruse the place at their own pace," said Pat Alnes, administrator at the Hall of Fame. "Some people take an hour to look us over, others take as much as three hours. We have a gallery with a plaque and a short bio of all the ladies that are here, and we also have a few display cases with exhibits in them."
Matilda Cuomo, the wife of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, will be among the inductees at this year's ceremony being held Sept. 15-17. She will join the ranks of women such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Clara Barton, Emily Dickinson and Rosa Parks.
The Hall of Fame is currently housed in the Helen Mosher Barben Building in the heart of the historic district, but the group hopes to be in a new home by this time next year.
"We're in the process of renovating an old knitting mill right down the street across from the canal, and we're raising money and working diligently on a daily basis to get that done," said Alnes. "The new place will give us more room to work with."
"The First Wave" statue exhibit in the lobby of the Women's Right National Historical Park visitor center in Seneca Falls. (Provided)
At the Women's Rights National Historical Park down the street, the first stop is the visitor's center where a short film, "Dreams of Equality," offers some historical background. A number of museum exhibits also are on display in the building including "The First Wave," a series of statues depicting the original planners of the Seneca Falls Convention.
Adjacent to the visitor's center is the Wesleyan Chapel, the site of the original convention in 1848, while around the corner at 32 Washington Street you can tour the Stanton's home during her time in Seneca Falls. In nearby Waterloo and also a part of the national historic site is the M'Clintock House, the home of Quakers Thomas and Mary Ann M'Clintock, two instrumental figures in the planning of the original convention.
The park is open Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free.
At the Seneca Falls Historical Society, visitors tour the stately, three-story Edward Mynderse Mansion, originally built in 1823 but then significantly modified later in the century during the Victorian Era.
Admission is $25 per family, $15 for adults, $10 for students, seniors and AAA members.
Seneca Falls is a hamlet of about 6,500 people living within the town of Seneca Falls. Take the New York State Thruway west to exit 41 and head south on Route 414 for just a couple of miles and you're there. It is often mentioned as having been the inspiration for Frank Capra's 1946 Christmas Classic, "It's a Wonderful Life," and there is a museum dedicated to the movie at 32 Fall St.
National Women's Hall of Fame
WHERE: 76 Fall St., Seneca Falls
WHEN: Sunday through Tuesday, Noon-4 p.m.; Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $4 for adults, $3 for students and seniors, $8 for families, children 5 and under, free
MORE INFO: https://www.womenofthehall.org/
Women's Rights National Historical Park
WHERE: 136 Fall Street, Seneca Falls
WHEN: Friday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: https://www.nps.gov/wori/learn/historyculture/seneca-falls-in-1848.htm
Seneca Falls Historical Society
WHERE: 55 Cayuga St., Seneca Falls
WHEN: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (summer hours beginning in July include Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.)
HOW MUCH: $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, $25 for families
MORE INFO: http://sfhistoricalsociety.org/