Monday, Apr 15, 2013
At a park that is women-centric, Women’s History Month provides the opportunity to focus on the accomplishments of women other than the Seneca Falls Convention organizers.
“The interpretive rangers pitch their ideas to the chief of interpretation and then decisions are made about which programs or projects will be realized,” said Tammy Duchesne, the park’s superintendent. “One thing we are trying to do at Women’s Rights is introduce visitors not just to women’s rights but to the National Park System.”
For International Women’s Day, March 8th, the park unveiled a new temporary exhibit on Saint Marianne Cope and Kalaupapa National Historic Park. Saint Marianne Cope, well known in upstate New York, was selected as the exhibit feature because of her life work with the Sisters of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York. In 1888, Marianne Cope arrived in Moloka’i, Hawai’i, and spent her remaining 30 years dedicated to helping those with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) on the peninsula.
“She was a passionate and dedicated woman who fought for sanitary conditions and the fair and humane treatment of all people, including those with Hansen’s disease who had been ostracized and banished from society,” says Duchesne.
The “cherry on top”, if you will, was the attendance of Henry Law, the first superintendent of Kalaupapa NHP. Kalaupapa NHP and Women’s Right NHP were made national parks on the same day through the same legislation. This exhibit includes park brochures from Kalaupapa to make it possible for people to learn about another national park that also commemorates the struggle for fairness and equality for all people.
Later that day, the park also hosted a program sponsored by Women in Leadership and the Friends of Women’s Rights National Park entitled “Women in Science- Is it Rocket Science?” This program featured a conversation between living history performer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Dr. Judith Pipher, a local astrophysicist. This program was a nod to women pioneers in the field of science.
Appearing recently in the InsideNPS headlines, The Love in That Cabin was an exceptional event for the ways it brought together many incredible historic moments in women’s history, including the friendship between Harriet Tubman and first Women’s Rights Convention organizer Martha Coffin Wright, the 100th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s death, and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation.
Living history performer Carolyn Evans had the crowd on the edge of their seats as she portrayed Tubman in two performances in the park’s Guntzel Theater in Seneca Falls.
“She transitioned seamlessly from storytelling to singing, running, laughing, and crying. Evans charmed the audience with her engaging, lively, and dramatic portrayal of Tubman,” said ranger Jamie Wolfe. “Throughout the program she revealed vivid accounts of Tubman’s childhood, daring adventures, loyal friendships, Civil War memories, and her proudest moments.”
The play also highlighted the friendship between Tubman and Wright, and their work during the women’s suffrage movement. Utilizing a performer as an interpretive tool was central to the success of this event.
"Having someone deliver a program in first person is particularly touching,” said Duchesne. “In addition to telling a historically accurate account of an amazing person’s life, the actress was also passionate, animated and captivating.” Living history performers bring historical figures to life in a way that effectively engages audiences of all ages.
Women’s Rights National Historic Park continues to be a trailblazer with Call To Action (C2A) events. Tammy Duchesne applauds her staff for their continuous great work. With a slew of C2A events and wonderful partnerships already in the works, we look forward to reading more about the pioneering Women’s Right National Historic Park.