I’ve been living in Geneva for a year and a half and I keep meaning to write a post about Seneca Falls, NY. I was reminded of this intention when Obama referenced it in his Inauguration Address this past week. Here’s what President Obama had to say:
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well….
I was very touched by these words and I was reminded that we still have a ways yet to go.
So what’s the deal with Seneca Falls? Not 15 minutes from Geneva, the first women’s rights convention was held 165 years ago in 1848. Organized by five women, all of whom were familiar with the antislavery movement and four of whom were Quakers, the convention attracted 300 participants and resulted in the Declaration of Sentiments. Signed by 100 men and women from the convention, the Declaration states unequivocally that all men and women are created equal.
Today, there is a Women’s Rights National Historic Park commemorating the events that took place in Seneca Falls and celebrating the ongoing movement toward greater equality.
In 1847, just prior to the Seneca Falls Convention, Elizabeth Blackwell was accepted as a medical student at Geneva Medical College (now Hobart and William Smith Colleges). She became the first woman to practice medicine in the United States. Another pretty amazing achievement that took place right here in the Finger Lakes.
Until I moved to this area, I was not familiar with these details of history. I am thankful for the memorials and public art that have at prompted me to learn about the past in this region. And, of course, I am thankful for those who fought for justice and for those who continue to do so today.