It’s a cold, windy day, and I’m so glad I piled on all the wool clothes I brought with me; Californian that I am, I was overly optimistic about the weather when I packed for the trip, as I am wont to do. But the sky is a beautiful azure blue, and Woodlawn is a beautiful place, the fall leaves adding vibrancy to a scene of serene green lawns and gray marble. Elizabeth is buried here with her husband and other family.
From the Jerome Avenue gate, I walk down Central, with one beautiful view before me after another, after another…
A friendly man who works here had given me directions, and after I walk for a little while, he’s about to pass me in his little work car. He’s driving around the park grounds, clearing the drives and paths of the large branches that the strong winds were knocking off the trees. He pulls up and offers me a ride to a spot nearer Elizabeth’s grave, since he sees me apparently looking around and wondering if I’m going the right way. I accept his offer so I can hear any stories he might have to tell about the cemetery and those resting there. Instead, we chat a little about sports and the weather, between stops now and again to clear another branch, and about California, about which he has a lot of questions.
He drops me off near her final resting place between Observatory and Lake, a few plots east of Observatory, on the north side of the road.
As you can see, many of her female descendants felt free and inspired to pursue careers and interests that were closed to women on Elizabeth’s time, and were unusual even in theirs, decades later. Harriet Stanton Blatch, as told in my previous piece, carried on her mother’s work as a suffragette, as did her granddaughter, Nora Stanton Blatch, who became a civil engineer as well.
As I stand at Elizabeth’s grave, and call to mind all that she did to make my life and all the lives of my fellow women free and independent, I feel deeply moved.
I am so, so grateful, and humbled by her boldness and bravery when she took such a stand against centuries of oppression of women, when few stood with her on that side of the struggle. Every woman, be she single, coupled, or married, professional or full-time homemaker, a mother or without children, have her to thank, because she did so much to make it possible for her to choose her own way, and to prevent men from forcing her to live according to their whims and desires.
She did it all: she was a stay-at-home mother of a large brood of seven children for many years before she became a professional public speaker and author; she was a wife who pursued her own interests independently of her husband when her children were sufficiently grown, and had a vibrant and active single life after his death; she was an intellectual outside of academia; she was a fierce critic of religion who was a close ally of religious leaders so long as their beliefs supported the cause for women’s liberty.
Elizabeth, in short, was a powerhouse.
The southeast section of Union Square Park, near the George Washington Equestrian Statue and to the left if you’re heading southward, was built where the church stood; as you can see from the 1911 New York Times article and the plaques, Union Square Park changed in size and shape many times over its history.
As you may recall, the Church of the Puritans (it’s also referred to as Dr. Cheever’s church in many of the old sources) was the site of the eleventh Women’s Rights National Convention, where the American Equal Rights Association was formed, where Elizabeth discussed her plans to run as the first female candidate for Congress, and both Ernestine and Elizabeth were featured speakers. (See my previous piece for more of the story.)
Thus ends my voyage of discovery in New York City, and again, I’ve had the most marvelous time, and learned so much, following in the footsteps of some of my favorite thinkers. There really is something about visiting actual locations where these important things happened and these wonderful people went about their lives; it centers you, focuses you, in much the same way religious idols or artifacts inspire the believer and the archaeologist. But I’ll soon be returning to Ernestine and Elizabeth’s most important legacy: their ideas, and the story of their work on behalf of the liberation of all women, and of all dispossessed and disenfranchised people. Until then….
Sources and Inspiration:
“American Equal Rights Association (AERA)”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014.
Belden, E. Porter. New York, Past, Present, and Future: Comprising a History of the City of New York. New York, 1849. http://books.google.com/books/about/New_York_Past_Present_and_Future.html?id=Jv-nXd8W8b0C
The Church of the Puritans, Presbyterian: 130th Street, near 5th Ave, New York. Anonymous. 1889. https://archive.org/details/churchofpuritans00chur
‘Contrasts in New York City Development Strikingly Seen Around Union Square’. New York Times, May 21st 1911. (Download PDF to see full article)http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9B0DEFDA1431E233A25752C2A9639C946096D6CF
Dorress-Worters, Paula. Mistress of Herself: Speeches and Letters of Ernestine Rose, Early Women’s Rights Leader. The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2008
Elizabeth Cady Stanton. (2014, November 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
Ernestine Rose. (2014, July 7). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
Find A Grave (website) http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=73495804
http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/rose-ernestine“Harriot Stanton Blatch,” Biography.com (website) 2014
‘Nora Stanton Blatch’. IEEE Global History Network (website)
Burns, Ken. Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Documentary film (1999, November 7). ” href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_for_Ourselves_Alone”>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_for_Ourselves_Alone
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Josyn Gage. History of Woman Suffrage, volumes 1 and 2. Rochester, N.Y., 1881 and 1887