Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Drive Through the State

We had never been to the western part of New York, so my daughter Alison and I were excited to make a visit to two historical sites, Matilda Joslyn Gage Home and Museum in Fayetteville and on to Seneca Falls. You read on this blog my introduction to Mrs. Gage via a show at the Rosendale. After that I contacted Sally Roesch Wagner, curator of the Gage Home and Museum, sent her a copy of That Was Tomorrow, and told her I wanted to visit her museum.

The Gage Museum is unique; set in a home, it is rife with information about the Underground Railroad, the birth of the women's suffrage organizations, later to be known as the Feminist Movement, and the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) tribe which Gage studied, worked with, and was admitted to as a member of the Wolf Clan. Gage lived from 1826 to 1898, was an early friend to Susan B. Anthony, and with Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote the first exhaustive history of the suffrage movement in the United States. She ran the day-to-day operations of the National Women's Suffrage Association from its inception until 1889. Her opposition, as the movement began to take hold, to the admission of the Temperance-and-Fundamentalist factions into the organization, caused the others to vote her out of power and essentially to remove her from their ranks.

I am especially touched by unsung heroes and heroines, like Gage and education visionary Marietta Johnson, so Matilda has a special place in my heart.  Alison and I sat and talked with Sally for what may have been hours--and we could have gone on for many more had there been time. Sally told me she loved That Was Tomorrow, and I gave her a copy of The Fair Hope of Heaven. She is working on a biography of Matilda Joslyn Gage that I cannot wait to read.

The next day we drove on to Seneca Falls, missing the President by just a couple of days. This is the birthplace of the early women's organizations, and the town is bursting with Women's History museums, as well as the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It is in a beautiful canal setting, with tree-lined and old houses, and the atmosphere of Americana all about. We learned a lot, talked about what we were learning, and stretched the drive home by driving back roads through hills and valleys and surprisingly magnificent rural scenery.

New York State has much to offer, and much of it is not what you would expect.

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