This article has been cross-posted from The New Agenda.
Hello from the great state of New York, city of Rochester! We’re here in search of Susan B. Anthony, and hope to find her at her homestead later today. We’ll report on that and Seneca Falls on Friday. My apologies for being out of touch so long, but we’ve had some glitches accessing wifi outside of my iPhone. Here’s what we’ve been up to before today.
We visited Paulsdale, Alice Paul’s house at Mount Laurel, NJ on Saturday. We had stopped at a hotel in Mt. Washington, NJ the night before and found ourselves surrounded by loads of families decked out in Valley Forge gear after having seen the sights there. It was a festive atmosphere and I couldn’t wait for the next day to see Paulsdale. Seeing all the folks so hyped about history really whet our appetites for it. As we pulled into the driveway on that crisp morning and saw the placard with her picture on it, I admit I started to tear up. It was an emotional moment stepping onto those grounds, knowing the story, and being able to share it with Lily and Amelia.
Thing is, the place was deserted. No one was there at 11:00 on a Saturday. I realized my mistake later after re-checking the website—tours had to be scheduled. I was pretty surprised. Here was the female equivalent of Abraham Lincoln, and no one seemed to care, save the folks who run the place. That was the first eye-opener of this trip. There aren’t any Paulsdales in the Midwest where we live, and while there are plenty of women’s historical sites to see, they don’t get a lot of traffic. I don’t know why I thought it would be different here.
Nevertheless we attended the grounds and peeked in windows while I told the girls why Alice Paul was important. They were most impressed with the force feedings and Night of Terror, of course. I told them how Alice Paul had used Paulsdale as a planning headquarters, how she had scads of women up to help plan and foment the revolution that Abigail Adams had promised 150 years earlier. I asked my young charges if they could picture it, the women moving about the gorgeous wrap-around porch or trailing their skirts along the grass, engaged in such meaningful conversations. We stood in the yard and let our imaginations run away with us. I think they could see it once I prompted them.
Boston the next day was the same mixture of disappointment and profound reverence. We arrived in Boston and located Beacon Hill, but then had I left my travel binder with info on the Women’s Heritage Trail and The Boston Women’s Memorial in it in the car. We knew the trail started at the State House, so we made our way the block and half to that, where we saw the statues of Mary Dyer and Anne Hutchinson at either end. If you don’t the stories of these two amazing women who gave their lives in pursuit of religious freedom, I encourage you to look them up. It is amazing that Massachusetts has acknowledged how badly they wronged these two women, and offered a mea culpa in the form of bronze statues.
From there we made our way to Boston Commons in search of a visitor center. As we walked we asked several people if they knew where the Women’s Heritage Trail was or the Boston Women’s Memorial. Without exception people were surprised to hear it existed, and no one knew where it was, even locals. At the visitor center a half a dozen employees were working the front desk, and only one of them even knew of the Boston Women’s Memorial and where it was. This whole aspect of the day was the most disappointing for me, for I had assumed that these monuments had been erected because the general public cared and appreciated the contributions of women.
We left our disappointment in the park and struck out for Commonwealth Avenue, which we learned was an entire avenue of monuments, all men save the Boston Women’s Memorial, which was almost at the end. We traveled the five or six blocks and examined the monuments to the great men of Boston on our way. I was delighted when we finally arrived to see the statues of Phillis Wheatley, Abigail Adams, and Lucy Stone. I walked to each of the statues telling the girls the women’s stories. Other walkers stopped to listen in, and that was the most delightful thing. People cared if they could understand, that much was obvious. Afterwards we sat on a bench and people-watched while we talked. Here I had a revelation of my own, which I shared with the girls. Continue reading