A federal government feasibility study and report about women’s heritage trails, their importance and possibility of their creation is available on archive.org. It’s called the “Women’s Rights National History Trail Feasibility Study” and it’s an affirmative statement about the resources of women’s heritage sites already in existence. This document is as relevant as the day it was published in 2003. A heritage trail along the Eastern seaboard will never materialize, but in the past year progress has been made on a trail in the Finger Lakes region of New York focused on Votes for Women and the suffrage movement. Seneca Falls, NY and the surrounding area is already attracting visitors from all over NY, the nation, and around the world. We’ll be tracking the development of the federal Votes for Women trail, as well as efforts to revive a state women’s heritage trail in New York. It’s a matter of setting an alarm clock to awake the sleeping giant.
From the Executive Summary:
The Omnibus Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1999 (P.L. 105-277) provided $100,000 for a trail study related to Women’s Rights National Historical Park. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter ID- Rochester NY) was the primary sponsor for this study and earlier had introduced legislation directing the National Park Service to study the feasibility of designating a women’s rights national historic trail from Boston, Massachusetts to Buffalo, New York. Although that bill was unsuccessful on its own, language in the Omnibus Appropriations Act accomplished that purpose.
The interdisciplinary study team worked with National Park Service historians and academic scholars to define the women’s rights movement and to understand it and its counter movements within the context of American history. Using the goals expressed in the Declaration of Sentiments adopted at
the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention as a framework, the study team defined women’s rights broadly to seek equality in the realms of politics –women’s suffrage; education– women’s access to higher education and professional schools; economics – women access to and rights within the workplace; religion – women’s roles and leadership in religious institutions; and society – reflected in efforts that were fostered by women to reform laws and customs on behalf of women.
Far from being a “special interest” confined to a corner of American history, the long pursuit of equality between the sexes is an immensely important theme in American history. The struggle for equal rights has altered the way the American labor force is structured and the way working people perceive their labor. It has changed the deeply private experiences of family life, parenthood, marriage and sexual behavior. It has altered our understanding of the purpose and justification of government, what American citizenship means, and how extensively democratic principles apply in our modern society.
To establish a context, the study team assembled and mapped a sample of women’s rights history properties throughout the northeastern United States, encompassing an area reaching from Maine to Virginia and including the District of Columbia. The women’s rights property sample should not be considered comprehensive and is by no means definitive. It is merely a reconnaissance-level survey used by the study team to develop a better understanding of the number and types of properties that still exist. In all, nearly 300 known women’s rights history properties were identified. The largest number of properties in the Northeast were in Massachusetts and New York. In Massachusetts, most of the known properties were clustered in the Greater Boston area. In New York, they were dispersed throughout the state with a cluster of properties located in a crescent shaped area roughly bounded by Rochester in the west, Syracuse in the east, and Seneca Falls and Waterloo in between. Based on existing information, a fairly dense corridor of women’s rights history properties is also found along the Eastern Seaboard, running from Boston to Washington, DC.
Image: Opening illustration for the story The Man from the Atom by Green Peyton Wertenbaker from the first issue (April 1926) of the pulp magazine Amazing Stories.