The day before casting a ballot for a woman president, Chelsea Clinton went to Seneca Falls

Paying homage to the people who fought for a woman’s right to vote

Elizabeth Chan
Apr 26, 2016 · 2 min read

When the women and men who gathered at the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, put those words to paper in 1848, it was an aspirational statement.

American women couldn’t vote, hold office, attend college, or earn a living other than as a teacher, domestic or mill worker, or seamstress. A married woman couldn’t divorce her husband, gain custody of her children, or own property of any kind. The Seneca Falls convention, and the Declaration of Sentiments it produced, began the long work of changing that.

One day before she cast her ballot for her mom, Hillary, to become the first woman president of the United States, Chelsea Clinton stopped by Seneca Falls to see the place where a few courageous Americans first came together to demand full equality for women.

Photography by Nicole Michaelis

Five women organized the convention in Seneca Falls, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. Three hundred women and men packed into the pews and balconies at the Wesleyan Chapel and drafted a Declaration of Sentiments, demanding equality for women in property rights, education, employment, marriage and family, and suffrage.
“I’ve always wanted to come here,” says Chelsea. “I remember reading the Declaration of Sentiments in school. And now to stand and sit where they worked on that document and made our first real national articulation that women deserve equal rights and equal opportunities to men is incredibly moving to me.”
Since the Seneca Falls convention, the Wesleyan Chapel has been a movie theater, a roller rink, studio apartments, and a laundromat. Local women led the charge to preserve its history and grant it landmark status — and it became a national park in 1980.
In 1872, Susan B. Anthony registered to vote in New York — and was arrested for doing so, since women wouldn’t have the right to vote in the United States until 1920. Anthony was charged $100, which she refused to pay. This was the court bench she sat on during her trial. One hundred and forty-four years after Anthony’s arrest, Chelsea pays homage, visiting the Women’s Hall of Fame just down the street from Wesleyan Chapel, where the original bench is preserved.
Since 1973, 266 women have been inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame. “I know so many of these names — Lilly Ledbetter, Maya Lin,” says Chelsea. “But I love that there are so many I’ve never heard of. I wish I had time to read every plaque on these walls.”
A familiar face: Hillary Clinton was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in 2005.
“My mother’s very first boss!” Chelsea spots Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, on the walls of the Women’s Hall of Fame.
The suffrage banner has 36 stars — one for every state that ratified the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote.
Abolitionist Frederick Douglass was integral to fight for women’s suffrage — and even attended the convention at Seneca Falls.
After hearing that the mission of the Seneca Falls historical site is to connect women’s rights, human rights, and civil rights, New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul quips, “I think I know someone who mentioned that in China.”
It started here: Seneca Falls became the catalyst for the larger women’s rights movement that continues today.
Chelsea leaves her mark in Seneca Falls: “Thank you for all the work you do every day to include women in American history (as we always have been) and brave and amazing leaders, ceiling breakers, and trailblazers who are women and well-known, visible, and can inspire girls and boys across the country and world.”

Hillary for America

Stories from the campaign trail, moments in history, ideas to help Americans get ahead and stay ahead.

Elizabeth Chan

Written by

Politics + pop culture

Hillary for America

Stories from the campaign trail, moments in history, ideas to help Americans get ahead and stay ahead.

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