This video is the ninth in a series of cultural landscape videos produced by the National Park Service (NPS) Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation (OCLP). The video is made possible through the efforts of production digital media production consultant Vanessa Hartsuiker, who initiated this video series during an internship with the Olmsted Center supported in partnership with the National Council for Preservation Education and the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.
To view more videos in the series click here.
Coline Jenkins: The 19th amendment of the U.S. Constitution is going to be exactly 100 years old in 2020 and what’s important is there’s this 72-year revolution from the “Demand of Elected Franchise” in Seneca Falls, Wesleyan Chapel, arching over to the ratification of the 19th Amendment. That’s a very interesting social movement. It’s called the world’s greatest bloodless revolution. Women’s Rights National Historical Park is in Seneca Falls, NY. It’s on the Erie Canal, or near the Erie Canal, which was the main artery from the east to the west.
Andie Dekoter: You’re along a major trade route with the Erie Canal. You have abolitionists, you have Frederick Douglass, you have Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. All these people are traveling in the same networks and they’re coming together in this place at this particular time. Women’s Rights National Historical Park includes four important sites. Two sites are in Waterloo, including the home of Mary Ann M’Clintock where the convention was planned and the Declaration of Sentiments was drafted, and the home of Jane Hunt, another leader in the women’s rights movement. The other two sites are in Seneca Falls to the east along canal. They are the Wesleyan Chapel where the first women’s rights convention was held in 1848 and the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton which she referred to as the center of the rebellion. This was a hotbed of radical activism in the mid-19th century. There were a number of women activists, and men activists as well, in the women’s rights movement. The five organizers who are credited for bringing the Seneca Falls convention together are Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Ann M’Clintock, Jane Hunt, Martha Coffin Wright, and Lucretia Coffin Mott. The convention was first discussed as a possibility at the home of Jane Hunt. She was gathering friends for we call it a tea party. It was a group of women who came together as friends and began talking about the injustices that they had experienced, that they witnessed. And they said wouldn’t it be incredible if we did what we as abolitionists have been doing for the anti-slavery movement had a convention to talk about women’s rights. So this is in Waterloo on July 9th of 1848. And from there the women would meet at the M’Clintock House just a few days before the convention was held. So on July 16th, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary Ann and Elizabeth M’Clintock, there may have been others as well we don’t know for sure, but we know that the three of them sat down and drafted the document in Waterloo, NY called the “Declaration of Sentiments.” And sentiments at that time meant that they were listing the grievances that they had about the ways that women were treated unequally.
Coline Jenkins: The Declaration of Sentiments was modeled on the Declaration of Independence, which is a brilliant strategy to take something the nation accepted in 1776 and say all men are created equal and then we need to add two words; all men and women are created equal.
Andie Dekoter: The convention would move over to Seneca Falls. It would be held in the Wesleyan Methodist Church in downtown Seneca Falls, NY.
Nathan Richardson: They assembled and read the Declaration of Sentiments and then call for a vote. So it’s just amazing to be in that space. It’s really a hallowed space and you can feel it when you when you walk in there. And I’ve been there numbers of times when I come up here for the convention days. And everybody… it’s a palpable thing that everybody feels. At the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House you get a full view of who she was as a woman, how she kept her house, the story of how she raised her children while she was doing all these other things. The times that I have been there and sit on the porch and talk to people you get the full sense of the full woman of Elizabeth Catie Stanton.
Andie Dekoter: I do think that the quest for women’s rights is an ongoing process. On the second floor of our visitor center, we leave visitors with one last question, which is: what will it be like when men and women are truly equal? And there are some who will leave notes behind stating we’ve already achieved equality. We achieve that with the 19th amendment. There are others who feel differently. But I do think that right now in our society we – we are continuing to see the ripple effects of the women’s rights movement today. And that we continue to recognize that there are areas where women do not receive equal consideration with men.
Nathan Richardson: It doesn’t mean that okay we have the right to vote that’s it you know we can end the party. I mean women still have a ways to go as far as equal rights in America.
Nadia Shahram, ESQ: Women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and alike, they work very hard to gain many rights that women did not have in 1843. And as hard as it is to gain those rights, it could be taken away from us much faster. We need to preserve the history, and yes it is relevant today because our daughters, our granddaughters, they have to know the origin they have to know the history in order for us to gain more rights, not to let go of those rights. Everybody should know about Seneca Falls, because this is where it all began. Women’s rights. Human rights.
Coline Jenkins is the Great Great Granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Andie Dekoter is the Acting Superintendent of Women’s Right National Historical Park
Nathan Richardson is the Frederick Douglass Living History Performer
Nadia Shahram, ESQ is the Author of Declaration of Equalities for Muslim Women