Farmington Quaker Meeting restoration progress report

Farmington Quaker MeetingInterested in historical detective work? Want to see how the jigsaw puzzle of the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse in Farmington, NY is coming together?

Mark your calendar for September 3, 2014 at 4:30 p.m. for a preliminary report on architectural findings from the Historic Structure Report for the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse. Come early at 3 p.m. if you have artifacts from the Meetinghouse –windows, doors, benches, woodwork, nails, whatever– that you would like to share. The architectural team will photograph and measure these items at the meeting at the Farmington Friends Church, 187 Country Road 8, Farmington, NY.

Save the Date for Sally Roesch Wagner’s presentation, “Haudenosaunee Women and Women’s Rights,” on November 8, 2014 at 2 p.m. Wagner who hails from the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center in Fayetteville, NY will discuss the influence of Haudenosaunee women on the dominant culture’s 19th century women’s rights movement. Co-sponsor: Ganondagan Historic Site. Seneca white corn cookies will be served. Event scheduled for the Farmington Friends Meetinghouse, 187 County Road 8, Farmington, NY.

For more information:

Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester has solid community support

Susan B. Anthony videoIt’s Susan B. Anthony’s birthday on February 15th, and a great time to celebrate along with hundreds of people today at the Rochester Convention Center who will be attending a celebration luncheon in Rochester that’s an annual fundraiser for the Susan B. Anthony House. The article by Marguerite Kearns on New York History‘s blog lays out how popular Susan B. Anthony continues to be and the piece flows from the 2013 blogging tour of the Cradle of the women’s rights movement in the U.S. Article PDF.

Susan rocked the cradle for Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s children, and in the process defined what we know now is the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the nation. Now, we’re rocking the cradle for Susan.


Questions raised from the 2013 Cradle Blogging Tour

– Will New York State hold a suffrage centennial in 2017? If so, who will move the initiative forward?

– Will there be a next step in the federal government’s creation of a Votes for Women trail in NYS’s “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the US?

– Is it likely that the NYS Legislature will approve funding to move to the next step on its initiative to create a statewide Women’s Heritage Trail?

– Where are the supporters of rocking the cradle so that New York State can benefit from much-needed economic development from cultural and heritage tourism associated with the 2017 and 2020 suffrage centennials?

As the federal government shutdown continues, the progress on the Votes for Women heritage trail has been put on hold. That project has reached the stakeholder criteria phase, and there’s no way of knowing if and when the next phase will be reached without federal funding. Movement this year on approval for the Harriet Tubman home in Auburn, NY is also on hold. The entire NYS Congressional delegation put its weight behind the idea of the Tubman home becoming a national park. We visited the Tubman home during the 2013 Cradle blogging tour and that story is in the pipeline. As for the prospect of state funding to move forward on a New York State women’s heritage trail, this possibility is also unknown. The state Capitol in Albany, NY is in between sessions and nothing will start moving until the opening of the NYS Legislature in January 2014. Friends and supporters –rub the sand out of your eyes and let’s get moving!

DAY #4: Continuing on to Seneca Falls, NY on the blogging tour!

Elizabeth Cady Stanton houseThe doors were locked this past week at the Elizabeth Cady Stanton home at the national park in Seneca Falls, New York. We barely got out of town before the federal shutdown was announced, but fortunately there was enough time to take in the visitors’ center, and experience the rebuilt Wesleyan Chapel, the Hunt and M’Clintock homes, where the organizers of the event met and set into motion an event that sparked a social revolution.

On the road we discovered rather quickly that daily blogging was ambitious. We completed Days #1, 2, and 3 before surrendering to the call of adventure and moving forward to experience as much as possible without keeping to the daily grind. We traveled to Johnstown, Fayetteville, Auburn, Rochester, and Farmington. No small accomplishment. And we’re catching up now that we’re back in the saddle of our so-called normal lives.

We won’t neglect bringing everyone up to date, eventually. Hang in there. Our blog entries are also available on the New York History site. So subscribe to Let’s Rock the Cradle, or check in with New York History. Here are some 2013 posts:

“Can the Women’s Rights Trail Become Reality?”  by Marguerite Kearns and Olivia Twine, New York History, October 8, 2013.

“Women’s Rights: The Matilda Joslyn Gage Home, by Olivia Twine and Marguerite Kearns, New York History, October 2, 2013.

In Johnstown, NY: “Hopes for Votes for Women Trail Funding,” by Olivia Twine and Marguerite Kearns, New York History, September 30, 2013.

“A Report from the Sojourner Truth Statue Unveiling,” by Olivia Twine, New York History, September 24, 2013.

“An unlikely witness to suffrage movement in Rochester,” New York History, by Olivia Twine. September 2013.

“‘Spirit of 1776 Wagon’ Recognized by Legislative Resolution,” by Olivia Twine, New York History, July 2, 2013.

“Suffrage and Global Citizenship,” by Olivia Twine. New York History. June 20, 2013.

Brimstone, Booze and the Ballot: Susan B. Anthony vs. Matilda Joslyn Gage,” by Olivia Twine, New York History. March 21, 2013.


DAY #1: Going home with Sojourner Truth, by Marguerite Kearns

I’m standing in front of the Ulster County Courthouse at 285 Wall Street in Kingston, New York. Not now, but in my memory as I write this. And I’m returning to this same courthouse as I set out with Olivia Twine on a blogging tour of the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the United States.  We’ll be blogging online through the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the US over the next seven days.

We’re hitting the road first in Ulster County where I lived for 20 years from 1972 to 1992, and where I visited the courthouse plaque in Kingston often during the years I lived in Ulster County. Of all of Ulster’s famous historical figures, Sojourner Truth has risen to the top as my favorite.

After the unveiling of a bust of Truth in the Emancipation Hall in the nation’s capitol in 2009, this new statue in New York represents another a major step forward in mainstream recognition of Sojourner Truth as an important traveling minister, major civil rights leader and activist in American history.

She hit the lecture trail on hundreds of occasions to mesmerize audiences with her dynamic perspectives about faith, abolition, and the bondage of women. After each appearance, she moved onto the next stage of her travels. People couldn’t forget her.

Sojourner Truth was born a slave not far from Hurley, the site of Stone House Days, an annual event when every year in July some of the oldest stone homes in the nation, going back to the early Dutch settlement in the Hudson Valley, are open to the public.

No single house is dedicated to Sojourner Truth, though one stone building’s claim to fame is that of a stop on the Underground Railroad. Sojourner Truth walked these streets and passed by these stone houses. As the slave of a Dutch settler, her first language was Dutch. Throughout her life, she spoke English with a Dutch accent.

The county courthouse property on Wall Street in Kingston, featuring the plaque to Sojourner Truth that was installed in 1983, is also the site of the inauguration of New York’s first governor, George Clinton, following his election in 1777.

It’s the same courthouse where over the 20th century, six Ulster County judges condemned seven defendants to death. And it’s the same courthouse where Sojourner Truth stormed through the courthouse doors in 1828 to demand legal redress to free her son Peter who’d been kidnapped and sold into slavery in Alabama. After months of litigation, she won.

Filing a legal suit and winning against a Southern slave owner represented an astonishing feat, an accomplishment that has resonated ever since. NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Karen Peters to the position of Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, Third Department in 2012. Peters, who had argued cases in the Ulster County courthouse and served as a judge there, cited the lessons she’d learned from the example of Sojourner Truth. She’s among many who carry that spirit into the present and future.


ST LOC Truth and Lincoln

Sojourner Truth and Abraham Lincoln. Library of Congress.

Sojourner Truth was feisty, courageous and outspoken. She knew full well the meaning of bondage and freedom. So it’s significant that the courthouse, that has been a hub of condemning people to bondage and imprisonment going back to the turn of the 20th century, would feature a plaque to celebrate an important cultural treasure such as Sojourner Truth.

She represented the salt of the earth and became a passionate showstopper everywhere she went. Some Ulster County residents rallied in support of her effort to free her son; she forged ahead and stood tall as a Joan of Arc of her times. This example represents just one of many instances in her life where Truth’s determination and persistence couldn’t be stopped.

Truth rose from her seat at the 1851 National Women’s Rights Convention in Ohio to deliver a message that today we recognize as her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech. This is a well-known and dramatic example of her style, though it was, no doubt, similar to hundreds of other presentations like it.  In some instances she faced mobs throwing stones. On the speakers’ platform she wore a silk scarf with the Biblical quote from Leviticus 25:10: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

Two years ago when visiting the Sophia Smith Collection: Women’s History Archives at Smith College, I requested their file on Sojourner Truth. It contained a small photo of Truth printed on cardboard that she sold to raise money for her travels. Holding something which Sojourner Truth had most likely held herself and sold to an audience member brought me to tears. But then again, I have a soft spot for this sort of thing.


Today, most people must settle for statues, plaques and monuments, a well as the spirit that’s behind them. Sojourner Truth had a corner on the spirit market. She changed her name to Sojourner Truth in 1843 to be consistent with her mission of reaching out to the world. She was driven by spirit with a capital “S” and continues to impress us today with statements that have been passed down over the years such as:

“If women want rights more than they got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.”

“ . . . I have borne five children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me. And ain’t I a woman?”

“I’m not going to die, I’m going home like a shooting star.”

I’ve always aspired to be like Sojourner Truth, though the attempt represents a pale imitation of the real Sojourner Truth. I’ve called on her spirit whenever I’ve been in jams or up against circumstances or social systems that wouldn’t budge. On the surface, Sojourner Truth had everything going against her and yet she disrupted and moved mountain ranges.

Sojourner Truth never wrote a book, though her “told to” life story is available on the internet and contains unforgettable images and descriptions of what it was like to be a slave in Ulster County and the Hudson Valley. See The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave. Reading the account of her life made an indelible impact on me. During the 20 years I lived in Ulster County and traveled the back roads and witnessed a landscape recognizable to Sojourner Truth, I couldn’t help but marvel about how many area residents were unaware of her remarkable story.

This is changing rapidly. The library at New Paltz College (SUNY) is named after Sojourner Truth. A notable number of scholars have devoted their careers to researching and documenting her life. Her Ulster County slave master, John Dumont, will go down in history as promising Sojourner Truth her freedom and then changing his mind. She plotted, schemed, and met her obligations before turning her back on bondage a year before New York abolished slavery in 1827.

Though her given name at birth was Isabella Baumfree, Sojourner Truth is how she is most remembered. She spoke the truth and rattled cages. She held her own on Votes for Women lecture platforms, wore simple clothing described as Quaker-like, and stood next to suffrage activists dressed in gowns and fashionable hats. On November 26, 1883 –130 years ago– she died at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan.

People loved Sojourner Truth for good reason, which makes it appropriate to begin with Sojourner Truth on this blogging tour of the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the US. We’ll be visiting the homes of suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, the hometown of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the national park at Seneca Falls. Follow us at:

Along the way I’ll be resurrecting more of Truth’s messages from the past, polishing and fanning their light and glory, and sharing the spirit with others. The new bronze statue by Trina Green of New Paltz is of Truth, as a slave child, working. It’s a reminder to all of us to listen carefully to Sojourner Truth as her words come down to us from a very different time and are very much relevant to today.

Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. Our vision and determination won’t die. Sojourner Truth has passed on treasures with the messages of her life, spirit and determination as a reminder to make significant change in our world today

And in the end, like Sojourner Truth, we’ll go home like a shooting star.





Cradle Tour 2013

Don’t make a fuss. Get on the bus. Mark your calendar and sign up now on our home page.

The tour bus needs paint and a tuneup while we’re getting ready to take off on a blogging tour of the Cradle of the Women’s Rights Movement in the US in late September.

It’s free. Join the fun and give the Cradle a rock and a roll. Image: Adapted from photo by Neil Clifton.

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Sign up for a free tour of the cradle of the women’s rights movement in the US

Late September is a great time to take a trip when the leaves are turning and soon to be at their peak. We want you to join us on a free tour of the “cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the US. You hop on the blogging bus and take off. As simple as that. Sign up online at the form above or log into  (

The idea started with the suffrage campaign wagon called the “Spirit of 1776” that had a day of glory on July 1, 2013 when the State of New York designated the “Spirit of 1776” Wagon Day to commemorate the centennial of the wagon’s first journey in 1913 from Manhattan to Long Island to campaign for women’s rights. Both houses of the New York State Legislature passed the resolution on June 18, 2013 creating the 2013 Wagon Day.

Now there’s an opportunity to help us take the suffrage wagon out on the road again with a blogging tour of the “cradle” of the women’s rights movement. Seneca Falls will be one of the stops, plus the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester, and the home and center of Matilda Joslyn Gage in Fayetteville.

It’s not necessary to leave home to join us on the blogging bus. It’s free. No worries about parking, hotel overnights, meals. This is a road trip to build interest in and momentum for the upcoming centennial of women voting in New York in 2017 and the national centennial suffrage observance in 2020.

If you think it’s early to be thinking about the future, consider this: We have an opportunity to create a splash with our fabulous history in 2017 and 2020, but it requires advance planning and building interest in the opportunities these suffrage centennials provide.

Sign up for the Cradle Road Trip by visiting Let’s Rock the Cradle, a project of Suffrage Wagon News Channel, the web site and blog that tells the story of the suffrage campaign wagon in New York City and Long Island. Subscribe!

You’ll be in the forefront of an effort to rock the cradle. Many individuals and organizations are figuring out ways to rock the cradle too. Have your organization join us by becoming a Friend of LetsRockTheCradle. For more information, contact us at LetsRockTheCradle at

Start now by signing up for the blogging tour at!  (

Don’t make a fuss. Get a front row seat on the Blogging Bus! For more information, visit Suffrage Wagon News Channel ( ) and LetsRockTheCradle (

Touching in with the Cradle’s Heavyweights

Frederick Douglass

We’ll be going to Seneca Falls, New York and retracing the footsteps of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, and a wide variety of others. Check out the video below to hear the words as they were spoken in July of 1848, 165 years ago. Travel the highways and byways of towns and villages where you will walk the same footpaths as Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and many others. The first blogging tour will cover a lot of territory quickly. And there will be videos and audio and postings that will take you to the heart of the action.

“Spirit of 1776” suffrage wagon rocked the cradle with NYS Legislative Resolution in 2013

Both houses of the New York State Legislature passed a resolution on June 18, 2013 commemorating the “Spirit of 1776” suffrage campaign wagon’s centennial of its first journey from Manhattan to Long Island in July of 1913. The resolution rocked the cradle and brought together cultural heritage tourism as well as the need for New Yorkers to get started planning its own suffrage centennial in 2017.

Suffrage Wagon has its own web site (called Suffrage Wagon News Channel), and the wagon itself is in the collection of the New York State Museum. There are more than 30 videos on the Suffrage Wagon YouTube and Vimeo channels. Plus a Suffrage Wagon Cooking School, twice weekly postings, and a quarterly newsletter. Follow the Suffrage Wagon for news and views of the suffrage movement. Celebrate women’s freedom to vote. Shoulder to shoulder coverage since 2009.

Sample video: