Seneca Falls’ Wesleyan Chapel hosted the First Women’s Rights Convention in 1848. This was a 2-day meeting that yielded a Declaration of Sentiments ratified by 100 signers. This church’s Methodist congregation split into 2 groups 23 years later and the building became an opera house, a laundromat, and other things before almost being destroyed by age, bad weather, and vandalism. A major project to restore what was left began in 2009, and it recently reopened as one of the attractions in the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. Ruth & I were lucky to see it. It was free when we were there.
The National Women’s Hall of Fame cost us less than $10 to enter. It consisted of framed biographies and photos of past inductees and seemed rather dry until I learned that a campaign is underway to move it into the 1844 Seneca Knitting Mill eventually. Founded in 1969, the National Women’s Hall of Fame already honors 276 women from varied backgrounds. Anyone can nominate an inductee. Some are famous like Lucille Ball, Amelia Earhart, and Nancy Pelosi. Others are not so well-known, so I asked Renee, the lady who offered Ruth and me a personal tour, about her favorite and learned about Belva Lockwood as a result.
Belva Lockwood began teaching in Niagara County when she was 15 and married at 19. Soon a widow, she remarried and moved to Washington, DC. Close to middle age, she found a law school that would accept her and she joined the DC bar upon graduation. However, she was refused permission to appear before the Supreme Court and steered a bill through Congress to fix this injustice. Belva became, as a result, the 1st woman to appear before this Court. She ran for President twice and worked on property law reforms that would benefit women.
Every other year, 10 to 12 women are chosen as indictees. The 2019 induction ceremony will occur on Saturday, September 14. Among the 10 women to be honored this year are Jane Fonda, Sonia Sotomayor, and Angela Davis. I did not know about half of the inductees, like composer Laurie Spiegel.
PS. I always thought that World War II was the 1st to open many new careers for women. It was not. During the Civil War many women became, among other professions, nurses and continued to practice the skills they learned after the war ended.