Sometimes you just need to break out of your daily routine and seek out something (or someone) so inspirational that you won’t even mind going back to work afterwards. Yesterday afternoon my friend Julie (yes the same Julie from the Skaneateles Mail Boat adventure last summer!) and I went to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. Our first stop was a guided tour of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton home, which I admit I wasn’t too excited about seeing. However I was pleasantly surprised, not by the house itself which was nothing exceptional, but by the stories the park ranger told us about Ms. Cady Stanton.
Sometimes we forget that these women in history books were quite similar to us. Like women today, they wanted their contributions to be acknowledged, their intelligence and hard work appreciated, equal pay for the same jobs, and the right to be able to vote and help shape America’s policies. They poured the foundation on which we all stand today, still striving for equal treatment.
But they weren’t cardboard cutouts, they were real people with faults and strengths. Elizabeth Cady Stanton had a relationship with her brother-in-law, struggled with disciplining her sons, and chafed at having to do housework when she would rather be writing or thinking about how to advance the causes she cared so passionately about. When Ms. Cady Stanton got desperate enough she’d make “Aunt” Susan B. Anthony come to her house and cook and watch the children for her so she could write speeches for the childless, unmarried woman from Rochester to share all over the country. Does that story resonate with any of you?
The other thing I like about the Women’s Rights Park Visitor Center is that the exhibits link the past and present in ways that engage your interest and curiosity while making you aware of how important all human rights, not just those of certain groups, are. Also of how movements are made up of a diversity of people (who may not always agree with each other!) not just the ones mentioned in the history books. Additionally, it’s amazing to me that the Women’s Rights movement began right here in the Finger Lakes Region of New York instead of Boston or Chicago or Washington DC.
One of the reasons I wanted to visit the Center this March was that one of my favorite artists, Alice Gant, who creates incredible colorful and imaginative cloth banners about “influential and interesting individuals” had an art display there. As usual it did not disappoint, and reading why Ms. Gant had chosen to commemorate the people in her banners was just as compelling as the illustrations themselves.
At the end of the day my old friend and I agreed that letting ourselves become immersed in the accomplishments of all of these strong and dedicated women was an excellent reminder that, though we’ve come really far, there is still a long way to go.