Must See National Parks —Women‘s Rights in Seneca Falls
Of the 23 national parks in New York, only four are located in the state’s middle region. One of those, Women’s Rights National Historic Park, is located 45 minutes west of Syracuse in the historic town of Seneca Falls.
Central New York features a number of well-known state parks. Buttermilk Falls and Watkins Glen are two nearby examples of the 180 state parks that can be found at parks.ny.gov. But Central New York features another smaller set of national parks, and of these, one must-see park is the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls.
Seneca Falls is most famous for its role in beginning the feminist movement. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a resident of the town, held a convention in 1848 inviting feminist and abolitionist leaders to the town to discuss women’s rights.
More than 300 people, including Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Frederick Douglass, attended. Between July 19 and 20 the attendees created a revolutionary document, the “Declaration of Sentiments”, which proclaimed “all men and women are created equal.” Today, the Seneca Falls convention is considered the first step in the women’s movement and the eventual passing of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote.
The park includes four properties scattered throughout the Seneca Falls area. Visitors looking for the park find themselves at 136 Fall St. in Seneca Falls, the park’s central location. Right on the corner of Clinton St. and Fall St., the visitor center does not feature the typical green space associated with national parks, instead offering exhibits on the history of women’s movement, the convention, and evolving social roles of women.
“The First Wave” statue exhibit in the lobby of the park visitor center.
Next door sits an urban green space, called Declaration Park. It’s a small enclosed lawn that includes the Water Wall, a fountain that stretches the length of the park, trickling water over the boundary wall’s smooth stones. On the stones, the words of the Declaration and all of the convention’s attendees glisten in gold-painted inscription.
Across Declaration Park from the visitor center sits the most important site in Women’s Rights NHP, the Wesleyan chapel where the convention was held. The stark interior features a stone floor, brick walls, and wooden pews, looking much like it did when Douglass, Mott, and Stanton sat in its pews more than 165 years ago.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton House
Just about a mile away, at the end of Washington St., sits the Elizabeth Cady Stanton house. The house features a number of informational boards where visitors can learn about the house and its occupants. There is parking nearby, picnic tables in the house’s backyard, and the house is open for tours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Located a few miles west of Seneca Falls in the town of Waterloo sits the M’Clintock House. The house was occupied by Quaker abolitionists Mary Ann and Thomas M’Clintock. It was the site of the convention planning sessions and the initial drafting of the Declaration of Sentiments.
The Hunt house, fourth property of the park, is currently closed for renovation. However, there is still plenty to do at Women’s Rights NHP. There are a variety of guided tours on offer, and special accommodations for large groups if required. However, visitors are free to wander the properties themselves.
Tours of the M’Clintock house will be available Friday-Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Friday-Sunday at the Stanton house.