Finger Lakes and Freedom

We recently paid a visit to the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York. You often hear it talked about as wine country, and the vineyards and wineries provide a good reason for visiting. Small distilleries have grown up in the region as well, the same way they’re popping up in other places with a healthy micro-brewery industry. The area has a lot to offer beyond scenic enjoyment and a glass of wine and good, local cheese though. This time, we visited the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Senaca Falls, where the Suffragist Movement began. 

What struck me about the display, which was thought provoking and moving, was the way the suffragist cause was linked to other causes such as anti-slavery in America and the plight of people seeking asylum from war and oppression around the world. Part of the exhibit consisted of a cluster of bronze statues of people associated with the suffragists’ movement. I had my picture taken next to Frederic Douglass. While some people in the larger society opposed the Suffragist Movement as a violation of an order they took to be natural and sacred, and others sympathized but didn’t want to anger the men in their lives, Frederick Douglass responded by recognizing the oppression of women by men. White men. The same men who defended  the slavery of blacks.

I am a white man, and while I’ve sometimes been treated badly as a member of some category or other, being a white male has had its advantages. The exhibits made me take some time to think about that. It didn’t put me on a guilt trip. It just made me take some time to be more aware of the negative effects of forcing people into categories and excluding them from basic rights we tout as inalienable.

The inclusion of materials from the WWII Japanese American internment camps  was a reminder of the tenuousness of ‘secure’ social position. Economic vulnerability leaves many people in contemporary society without effective social rights as well.   Without any blatant harangue, the exhibits left a clear message: we all lose something when a group is denied basic rights and liberties, and none of us are safe when some of us are denied.

I don’t intend to turn my series protagonist into a traveling civil rights crusader, although I am glad he cares about others he meets on the road, even to the point of risking his own wellbeing to address the rights and needs of a murder victim or victim’s family. Well, I guess that does make him something of a crusader, doesn’t it? To Bobby, it’s just trying to do what he thinks is right.

It was a fun trip in a picturesque region of upstate New York. I enjoyed it. We all need a break once in awhile. Any comments to share?  

Boat Houses on Seneca Lake

A Moment With Frederick Douglass


  1. What an interesting blog, Glenn. I find it interesting to hear a man’s point of view on the Suffragette’s…it’s heartening and refreshing. I think people with open mind’s always tend to put themselves in other’s shoes.
    When my sons were young, I took them with me to the polls and showed them how votes were cast, and then explained why I go…whether I’m pleased with the candidates or not. I told them of women not being allowed to vote. I wanted them to hear from their mother, why I went, no matter the weather, or my agreements with candidates or not.
    Thank you for sharing this post…it was excellent 🙂 Lo

    • Thanks for your comments Loretta. I agree with your take on voting as a responsibility, and a hard-won right.

  2. Vonnie Kennedy says:

    Hi Glenn,
    I grew up and lived in the Finger Lakes region most of my life. It’s a beautiful area (especially in the fall) and rather a well-kept secret as a tourist destination. I miss the little villages along the lakes like Skaneateles, Watkins Glen, Seneca Falls, Aurora, and Canandaigua. But of course, Ithaca is my favorite city.

    Were you able check out the Harriett Tubman house in Auburn? Seward’s mansion is also in Auburn.

    I live in S Florida now and a member of FMWA, but still think of the Finger Lakes as my home. Glad you enjoyed it.


    • Hi Vonnie, thanks for your visit. I’ve heard about the Tubman house and intend to visit on another trip in the future. It is a beautiful area, and I look forward to future visits.

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