Located in central New York, along the northern end of Cayuga Lake, is the village of Seneca Falls. Based on a vote by residents last year, the village is being dissolved today. With a population of almost 7,000 people Seneca Falls is the largest village in New York ever to be dissolved. The move brings me a personal sadness. Not because I have ever been to Seneca Falls (I haven’t), but because it is a historically significant location.
On July 19–20, 1848, The Seneca Falls Convention met. It was one of the earliest gatherings of women’s rights proponents held in the United States. Led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and local Quaker women, the Convention met to provide a platform for Lucretia Mott, a Quaker leader known for her public speaking on women’s issues. The Quakers, in a rare historical twist, generally acknowledged the validity of female religious participation equal to that of men. The Convention produced the Declaration of Sentiments and its resolutions, which argued for women’s right to vote. Even Frederick Douglass gave a favorable assessment of women’s suffrage at the conference.
One of the long-term results of these early steps became the nineteenth amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment was passed only in 1920. The state of affairs for women still has far to go before it can be called true equality. Certainly some aspects of society have improved, but women still fall under the pay scales of men and are often barred from leadership roles they have every right to hold. Finland, India, Liberia, and Sri Lanka have all had women presidents. In the United States, Seneca Falls is dissolving.
The reason that women have been relegated to secondary status is generally because of religion. The gods seem to favor one set of genitalia above another. Most pantheons operate under the control of a masculine god. Of course, the rationale given is often based on scriptures written by men but passed along to the divine male for proxy authorship. We need more Seneca Falls Conventions, only they should be held in a higher court, not one inch shy of heaven itself. One of our national resolutions, as this year ends, ought to be finally to take seriously the spirit of our founders and bring equality for all to life.