The National Women’s Hall of Fame is creating the Center for Great Women in Seneca Falls, NY, the internationally recognized home of the women’s rights movement. Capitalizing on its location in the village where it all began, the Hall will reignite the passion for showcasing and preserving the rich history of women’s achievements, with the ultimate goal of inspiring and supporting the next generation as they explore their own options. The Center is desperately needed to honor the women of the past and the present, to tell the history of women’s struggles, to prepare the women of the future, and to serve as the voice of the value of women. It belongs in the birthplace of women’s rights.
The transformation of the 1844 Seneca Knitting Mill, a historic building located on a branch of the Erie Canal system, into a permanent home for the Hall will ensure that a state-of-the-art facility becomes a vibrant educational venue. The Center will enable national and international visitors, scholars, tourists and the community to discover and be inspired by a rich heritage centered around the stories of great American women. The adaptive rehabilitation of the Mill will also preserve this historic structure and honor the laborers, primarily women, who worked in the Mill until its closure in 1999.
Women’s stories are not told. Less than 10% of the content of history books references women. Students cannot name 20 famous American women through history, excluding sports figures, celebrities and First Ladies. Only 20% of news article are about women. A society that values women values all of its members. By telling the stories of great American women through exhibits and educational resources, the Hall will make a future where all members of society are valued a reality.
The adaptive rehabilitation of the Seneca Knitting Mill is ongoing. Stabilization, including abatement and the installation of a new roof were started in 2014 and completed by early 2015. In 2015, it was back to the drawing board for the next design and build phase planned for 2016. Work continues on the current phase for the limestone building, resulting in fabrication and replacement of all 100+ windows, repair or replacement of all lintels and sills, removal of lead paint on the masonry exterior, and repointing of all mortar joints. Our goal of receiving a certificate of occupancy for the first floor by winter 2017/2018 is realizable – which would enable the Hall to begin as the Center for Great Women. Finishing the remaining levels to expand exhibit, administrative, programming and research space – as well as a welcome center addition with cafe and gift shop will follow.
The Mill rehabilitation has the support of many organizations around New York State and has received grants from sources including the National Park Service, Empire State Development, New York State Environmental Protection Fund, New York State Canal Corporation, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, and the Rochester Area Community Foundation. In addition, the Town of Seneca Falls, ITT Corporation, Generations Bank, Corning Incorporated Foundation, other corporations, foundations and individual donors are helping to ensure the Center for Great Women will be completed.
We invite you to join us in telling the stories of great women and celebrating their accomplishments. Through the Center for Great Women, we will work to ensure the development of future women leaders through our programming. We will reach out nationally and internationally to scholars as well as the general public in the place where it began. We welcome you on this important journey.