We woke up in Seneca Falls, NY to find the rain had stopped. We had a full day’s drive to get home Wednesday evening and be ready for the first day of 4th grade Thursday. But there was — of course — much to be learned right there, and we took time for a short visit to the Women‘s Rights National Historical Park where the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention took place. What an intriguing mash-up of feminist iconography and rhetoric with national park service curatorial reverence!
With the 350-mile drive looming, we were waiting outside when the doors opened at 9 am, and a park service ranger offered to take us inside the Wesleyan Chapel while he opened windows for the day. In 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass and all those other activists met here and signed the Declaration of Sentiments (wow – I thought I knew what Seneca Falls was all about, but did not recall the language of this radical document).
The building today only has fragmentary remnants of the original walls and was apparently nearly demolished over the intervening decades, also serving, among other things, as a roller rink at one point.
The interior is spare and contemplative.
After watching the 25-minute documentary in the visitor center, GHB and LHB tried to puzzle out women not being allowed to vote, why people ever wore such uncomfortable clothes (prompted by a display of Victorian fashion apparatus), why it’s more OK for girls to play with trucks than it is for boys to like dolls, and other historical imponderables. Much to discuss, and we had plenty of time in the car on the way home… (but not nearly enough space in this post to cover it!).
We didn’t get to visit the historic houses and other places throughout Seneca Falls and Waterloo that are part of the Historic Site but we lingered at the water wall in the small park between the chapel and the visitor center.
We were sad not to have enough time to do all the activities in the junior ranger workbook, but I think each one of us learned more from the simplicity and dignity of the Seneca Falls site than we expected to, in spite of the brevity of our visit. We were utterly impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of all the NPS staff and volunteers, and gave a big thumbs up to our Seneca Falls day-before-school-starts field trip!