11 years ago today, Day 32

I left Niagara Falls fairly early, and headed north a few miles to the shore of Lake Ontario, which I drove along as far as the city of Rochester.  Along the way I found yet another lighthouse:

Thirty-Mile Point Lighthouse, Lake Ontario

When I got to Rochester, I turned south towards the Finger Lakes District of upstate New York, and wound up on the New York Thruway (a toll road) for a whopping fifteen cents’ worth of miles.

When I got off the Thruway, I stopped for lunch.  As is still my habit when I’m traveling alone, I tend to take a map or a book into restaurants to keep myself occupied while I’m waiting for my food.  This time it was a map.  The woman at the table next to me asked me if that was my car with the Washington plates, and I said yes.  “After that we talked about my trip, and her trip a while back to Spokane (which she mispronounced) and places to go nearby.  It was nice to have a conversation.”  One thing about traveling alone for long periods.  You learn to cherish conversations.

After lunch I got back on the road.  I didn’t really go down into the Finger Lakes, but stayed on the northern fringes, because I was heading towards Seneca Falls.  Seneca Falls, New York, is famous for being the birthplace of the women’s rights movement in the United States.  I’m going to quote my journal for a bit here, because this place really had an impact on me:

“The National Park Service has set up a historic site with a museum and a water wall (like a fountain, only the water cascades over a wall) with the ‘declaration of sentiments’ drafted at the convention held there in 1848 engraved in it, and the preserved remains of the Wesleyan Methodist Church where the convention was held.  It was a unique experience.  I took a guided tour of the church remains that started out as a group of people and ended up as just me and the tour guide.  I watched their film [in the museum], which was very well done.  And I went through their exhibits, which brought me close to tears.  I’m not quite sure why.  It was visceral.  Everything from how corsets, etc., deformed women’s bodies (and we have the gall to be appalled at footbinding in China — at least footbinding didn’t screw up a person’s internal organs) to how women became legally dead when they married (subsumed as basically her husband’s possession) to the association with the anti-slavery movement.  It was moving.  And very well done.  In the lobby of the visitor center is a grouping of almost life-sized bronze statues depicting people like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott.  And several men, like Frederick Douglass.  They’re beautiful.”

The statues in particular were really something.  I guess I never really realized before that day exactly how hard-won my rights as a woman in this country really were.  Which sounds sort of stupid in some ways.  I should have known somehow.  I should have known.

After I left Seneca Falls, I drove on to Syracuse, and a hostel in a big old house in an old neighborhood close to downtown.  It was almost empty, quite a contrast to the hostel in Niagara Falls the night before.  The peace was good.  It gave me time to think.  I needed it after that day.

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Categories: history, Long Trip, museums, national parks, philosophy, travel | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “11 years ago today, Day 32

  1. "And I went through their exhibits, which brought me close to tears. I'm not quite sure why. It was visceral."I had that sort of experience when I found myself, at Arlington Nat'l Cemetery, among deceased Supreme Court Justices, and then at the Challenger Memorial. I wanted to assure their shades that I would do my best to continue their work.BTW, I try to wear suffragette colors (purple, green, white) on election days, in honor of the women who fought so that wome would be able to vote in the country.

  2. I get a different sort of similar feeling at battlefield sites, but the feeling I got at Seneca Falls was unique in my experience. I still can't describe exactly what it was — not so much wanting to carry on the work, although I do, but — well, apparently I can't describe it even now, eleven years later.Wearing suffragette colors (which happen to be my two favorite colors plus white) on election day is an excellent idea, thanks!

  3. It does remind you how hard-won it was, how far we have yet to go, and how precarious what we've won actually is.

  4. It truly does.

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