Friday, July 16, 2010

Women and Wine

July 16, 2010
Rochester to Carlisle, PA
Our short visit to Rochester was full of relaxation and fun: a little birthday celebration for my sister Marcia, Rummikub games with Dad and June, lunch and a mini-tour of Rochester Institute of Technology on Marcia’s lunch hour, a family pizza party at Dad’s place, and lots of time for conversation. We even slipped in a 60,000 mile service appointment at the Rochester Lexus dealer to get rid of the big exclamation point warning sign that has been popping up every time we start the car.

Rested and relaxed, we are ready to be home. So, to cut down on the lollygagging, we take the New York State Thruway to Seneca Falls, site of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. The first formal demands for women’s rights were recorded at a meeting of over 300 women and men at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls on July 19-20, 1848. The demands were enumerated in “The Declaration of Sentiments,” modeled on the Declaration of Independence. Their grievances included: women could not vote, own property (if married), attend college, hold elected office, or work professionally. The document was debated and finalized by women only on the first day, then read and adopted at a meeting attended by both women and men on the second day. Here I am joining some of the people from the convention, including Stanton at the far left, and Fredierick Douglas next to her.

This important meeting was many years in the making. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott met at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840. The male delegates at the convention voted to bar female participation, and they relegated the female delegates to the back of the hall. This unfair action incensed Stanton and Mott, and served as an impetus to discussions and actions that they continued after they returned home. Eight years later, they formed a group of five women reformers—abolitionists and Quakers—to draft the Declaration of Sentiments and plan the women’s rights convention.

Stanton, the mother of seven children, kept working for women’s rights after the convention. She met temperance and anti-slavery activist Susan B. Anthony in 1951, and Anthony spent the next decade crossing the country delivering women’s rights speeches writted by Stanton. Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, called them “the most maneuvering politicians in the State of New York.”

Despite all the activism, women didn’t gain the right to vote until 1920, and they still held less than 6% of national elected offices in 1990, even though they were over 50% of the electorate. Inexplicably, the museum had nothing to say about the Equal Rights Amendment. We still have a ways to go.

After our tour through the Museum, we toured Stanton’s house across town. Her father, a wealthy Albany judge, gave it to her as a gift, and she and her husband lived and raised their family there for fifteen years (although he was often gone on business as a lawyer and abolitionist lecturer). Elizabeth hosted a conversation club in her parlor, where friends met to discuss issues of the day.

Enough about strong women of vision, we are on our way south, on a rural road that traverses a fertile delta between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes. We pass cows and corn and produce stands selling garlic braids, tomatoes, “just picked cherries,” herbs and perennials. American flags and laundry flap in the wind. There are at least a dozen vineyards along a stretch of road that is no more than twenty miles in length.

We stop at the Swedish Hill Winery, where the friendly fellow behind the bar in the tasting room offers us the opportunity to sample eight wines for $2. I am the designated drinker, Dick the designated driver, so he just takes a wee sip of each. I learn that my request for the “smokyest oakiest” Chardonnay Swedish Hill has to offer is a demonstration of my out of style taste buds—the trends are going to crisper, unoaked whites, according to the expert. However, they do just happen to make a wine that knocks me over with the flavor of toasted oak--I buy that one. Dick finds one that meets his palate preference—something so fruity sweet you could almost forget that it is alcoholic.

We somehow find a spot to stow the bottles in our tightly packed car, and are on our way, resisting the temptation to stop in and taste wine elsewhere. We stop for a picnic at a large public park on the south end of Seneca Lake, then find our way to the expressway and hightail it south to Carlisle.

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