Sunday, 26 June 2016

Women's Rights National Park: A Special Tribute To The Women

Entrance to the park's visitor center
By Paul Shalala in Seneca Falls, New York

The city of Seneca Falls is located in the north western part of New York state.

It is a picturesque town which holds the pride of being the birthplace of the suffrage movement in the United States.

On Saturday, this blogger joined other tourists who visited the Women's Rights National Historical Park which is probably the only national park in the world which is dedicated to the suffrage movement.

The park was established by the United States Congress in 1980 and it is run by the US National Park Service.

Tourists from both the US and abroad come here to see the impact the suffrage movement had on today's women.

Admission is absolutely free and the guides offer 'walking safaris' to various spots within Seneca Falls town where the suffrage movement had an impact.

According to the US National Park Service, July is the month when it receives more visitors.

A guide explaining Elizabeth's statue
"In the 1840s, a new movement of women who wanted more rights started growing in this town. During that time, women were confined to homes: cooking and taking care of the children. They had no right to vote," said a female guide who was explaining the significance of the suffrage movement to a group of tourists.

Under the leadership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the women started making noise and raising their profile to be heard by the authorities.

Elizabeth, who was popularly known as 'the Caged Lion,' is the woman who is seen as the face of the suffrage movement.

The city of Seneca Falls has even named one of its parks after her.

Her house, where she lived with her husband and seven children for 15 years, has been preserved and is now a tourist attraction.

According to records from the US National Park Service, "Elizabeth Stanton's activism was based in large part on her experiences as a Seneca Falls housewife. She was 31 years old when she moved here in 1847 with her husband Henry Stanton, a lawyer and abolitionist lecturer, and three boys. They had four more children."

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Park
Her husband was one of the co-founders of the Republican party.

Elizabeth was deeply religious and she attended church often.

"Despite being raised as Methodist, Elizabeth used to worship at the Episcopal Church where she recruited a number of women to join the suffrage movement," said Kyle Harvey, another guide from the US National Park Service.

Kyle explained that Elizabeth's advocacy was so powerful that the whole nation started hearing what was happening in New York state.

With the help of others, she helped organise a two days first ever Women's Rights Convention which was held at a local Wesleyan Church from 19 to 20 July 1848.

300 people attended the convention which culminated into the famous Declaration of Sentiments which brought out what women wanted, how they perceived life and the need for their rights to be upheld.

 Despite it being a women's meeting, 32 men attended the convention to give solidarity to their womenfolk.

The Declaration, which was tailored on the 1776 US Declaration of Independence, was signed by 68 women and all the 32 men.
The original wall inside the church

A plaque for all the women and men who signed the Declaration of Sentiments has been built in the park with names of all the signatories written while water flows over them as a mark of respect for their courage.

A visit to the Wesleyan Church which hosted the convention reveals the importance of the suffrage movement.

The original church, which was built in 1842, still stands and it is now part of the Women's Rights National Historical Park.

Here, visitors seat on old benches and view the original roof erected in 1842 but supported by steal beams.

At the visitor center, each of the women and men who played a part in the suffrage have a statue.

Photos of their activism are also displayed for visitors to see and understand the role of the movement.

Apart from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, others who have statues are Harriet Tubman, Martha and William Wright, Frederick Douglas and several others.

Tubman, who is known as 'The Moses of Her People' guided about 70 former slaves to freedom using the Underground Railway network with the help of Mrs Wright.
The Wesleyan Church which hosted the Convention

In 2020, Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the front page of the $20 note, making her the first African-American to appear on the US currency.

In April this year, the US Treasury announced that Tubman and a few others from the suffrage movement will be added on dollar notes.

The Wrights, gave refuge to Tubman and several freed slaves on the Underground Railway network which brought people from the south of  the USA where slavery was still rampant.

The couple were also instrumental in organising the First Women's Convention in 1848.

Through this activism, the US Congress in 1920 ratified the famous Nineteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and gave women the right to vote.

"This amendment, which was ratified in 1920, gave women the right to vote. The colours used in the [suffrage] banner were purple for justice, white for purity of intent and gold for courage," reads one of the leaflets from the visitor center.

The banner also had 36 stars, representing the 36 original states that ratified the amendment to allow women to vote.
A Hillary Clinton campaign poster in Seneca Falls

Since 1987, March has been commemorated as Women's History Month in the US to highlight the role women played in the suffrage movement and their continued struggle for equality.

And as i walked through the streets of Seneca Falls on Saturday, i was not shocked to find two campaign posters for the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.

Having toured towns such as Auburn, Waterloo and Syracuse without finding any single Hillary poster, i was not shocked to find them in Seneca Falls, a city that gave American women the right to vote.

Indeed, Seneca Falls must be happy to see a woman become the first ever nominee for a major political party in the United States who stands more chance than anyone else to be the first ever female President of the USA.


  1. This article clearly articulates the journey towards women's emancipation.The voices of women, usually the unsung heroines, and yet so resolute in search of justice and peace. Well done Paul for highlighting the story of the Suffrage Movement so well. Indeed the future of the world lies in the hands of women! Viva Women Power!!

    1. Thanks alot Engwase. What struck me most was the fact that the US Government decided to create a National park for the women. I was dead shocked because in Africa, National Parks are for animals and nature. Good inspiration for the women back home

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.