SENECA FALLS | At the Women's Rights National Historical Park Visitor's Center, one simple phrase is etched onto the back wall that describes the monumental events that took place in the town many years ago: "all men and women are created equal."
This year marks the 165th anniversary of the first Women's Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls in 1848, and a weekend-long celebration was hosted throughout the town to commemorate its significance. On Saturday, several events took place that brought the history of the Women's Rights Movement to life for all those who attended. One of the morning's first events was a reading of the Declaration of Sentiments, a document written primarily by women's rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton that expressed the dislike of unfair treatment of women during that period of time.
"In the past, history has swallowed women's accomplishments as if they never happened," historian Melinda Grube, dressed in costume to play the part of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, said to the crowd. "But not this time. This time, they will remember."
Grube's work as a historian focuses primarily on women's history and she has been doing costume presentations for many years. She became interested in women's history at a young age when, as a child growing up in Seneca Falls, she experienced something that spoke to her the way society spoke to women's rights activists 165 years ago.
"When I was a young girl I had a teacher who told me that women had never done anything important and I remember thinking that just couldn't be right," she said. "I decided I was never going to let anyone tell me that again."
Grube started making lists of all the important women in history whom she learned about throughout her studies and came to the realization that woman have had an impact in several areas of American history over the years. From that point on, she dedicated her career, and her life, to making sure that others knew about these accomplishments, as well.
Some of the visitors to the weekend's anniversary celebration make their homes near Seneca Falls and are very familiar with the history that surrounds the area. But for others, the site of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention is a place they make a point to visit in order to take in everything that can be learned from it.
"We've been reading about the Women's Rights Movement and decided to stop by," said Shawna Gehres, of Tulsa, Ok. who was passing through New York this weekend with her husband and two young daughters. "We didn't realize it was the anniversary and that all this would be happening. It worked out really well."
The commemorative events continued through Saturday evening with discussions, performances and a 19th century women's baseball game before wrapping up with a dinner to benefit the Women's Interfaith Institute. For all those who visited and participated in the weekend's celebration of the past, Grube believes that there is still plenty to be learned from the Women's Rights Movement for the future, as well.
"We don't want people to think of women as heroes of the past," she said. "They continue to be called to action today. They're not gone and they're not just a memory."