There is no better place to appreciate women’s history than the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, New York!
The story begins in 1840 when abolitionists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were barred from attending the World Anti-Slavery Convention held in London. The all-male organization refused to accept female delegates. Mott and Stanton were permitted to sit in the gallery and observe the proceedings, but were not allowed to participate in any way.
Upon returning to the United States, the women began planning the first ever Women’s Rights Convention. On July 9, 1848 Mott and Stanton met with Mary Ann M’Clintock, Martha Wright, and Jane Hunt in the front parlor of Hunt’s home to discuss and organize the convention.
Three hundred men and women attended the convention on July 19 and 20, 1848 at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls. The convention’s purpose was to discuss the social, civil and religious condition of women. On the first day, only women were allowed to speak. On the second day, men participated too.
The participants drafted the “Declaration of Sentiments,” based on the Declaration of Independence. It was a bold move for the 68 women and 36 men who signed the document. The following is an excerpt:
The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.
He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.
He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men - both natives and foreigners.
Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides.
He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.
He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
Today the Women’s Rights National Historical Park is comprised of five properties that together tell the story of the first Women’s Rights Convention:
Inside the Visitor’s Center, you will encounter an exhibit called “The First Wave,” comprised of life-sized bronze statues of some of the participants in the 1848 convention. The building also includes many modern exhibitions exploring the history of women’s rights. Outside the building is a water feature displaying the entire text of the Declaration of Sentiments.
The Wesleyan Chapel
Next door to the Visitor’s Center is the Wesleyan Chapel, the site of the 1848 convention. Although only a single original wall of the building survived the test of time, in 2009 the National Park Service began a project to reconstruct the Chapel.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton House
Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s home is also located in Seneca Falls. Visitors should be prepared to view a sparsely furnished house, since the National Park Service has chosen to furnish it only with items known to have belonged to Stanton. Although very few authenticated pieces remain, your park ranger guide will bring her story to life through a guided tour of her home.
The M’Clintock House was the site where the Declaration of Sentiments was first drafted. The family was also Quaker, and the home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. It is located in nearby Waterloo, New York and is open to the public seasonally during the summer months.
The Hunt House is also located in Waterloo. It was the home in which the “founding mothers” first met to plan the 1848 convention. The Hunt House is only open to the public on special occasions.