Last September when Mom and I were racing home from Niagara Falls, we flew by the Seneca Falls NY exit. Seneca Falls is home to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and is the birthplace of the women’s movement.
Mom’s great aunt Polly was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002, so we thought it would be fun to stop and see what that was all about. It was 5 am and dark, so we kept going.
But the idea stuck with me, so for Christmas, we gave Mom a coupon good for one spring road trip to visit Aunt Polly.
This weekend we took that road trip. We left early Friday morning and headed west. We went the zig-zag northern route, going through New Hampshire and Vermont. It was very pretty but COLD. Snow flurries flew, and the mountain tops had fresh snow. Ski runs still bright white. That part was a little depressing.
We stopped for lunch in Weston VT, visited the Vermont Country Store, where we got delicious goodies for the trip and a few fun and hard to find things. And maple syrup for the hotel breakfasts (lesson learned in September – bring your own syrup) of course!
From there we dropped down to route 90 and drove west for hours to Seneca Falls and our Hampton Inn home away from home.
Saturday morning we headed off to the Hall of Fame. It is currently in a fairly small space in downtown Seneca Falls, but there are plans to move it across the canal to an old knitting mill. Still, even in the small space, it was an impressive display. The walls are covered with rows of display boards of all inductees, in alphabetical order. We were the only people there for the first hour, and so got to poke and read at leisure. There were lots of abolitionists, suffragettes, educators, doctors, and scientists, with the occasional writer, artist or entertainer thrown in. Our Aunt Polly (formally Mary Engle Pennington) seems to have fit right in there and been one of many women who shattered glass ceilings at every step of the way. She attended Univ. of Penn and studied chemistry, but was denied a degree because of her gender. She took her certificate and marched off to Yale where she did get her masters degree. Then back to Penn where she earned, and was awarded, her PHD. Then the fun began, trying to get work. She wound up working for the USDA on food safety. Lest you think the US. gov was open to hiring women scientists in leadership positions in the 1890’s, guess again. She applied as Dr. ME Pennington, so they didn’t know until she arrived that M stood for Mary! She went on to work with Clarence Birdseye to figure out how to safely move frozen foods about the country, she worked with Hoover to feed Belgium after WWI, and maybe most importantly, she worked with the ice cream vendors on the streets of Philadelphia to ensure that the carts kept the ice cream consistently cold so that it was safe to consume.
There is lots more that she did while there, designing refrigerated railway cars, figuring the temps we should keep food at to avoid bacteria growth, even designing modern home fridges.
From the scientific side of things, she was pretty amazing. From a personal viewpoint, she was apparently an amazing aunt and great aunt, making sure that her niece and nephew (my grandfather) got an education, and providing many hours of entertainment with her tales of traveling on tramp steamers and in refrigerated railroad cars across the country.
She died just a few years before I was born, but I grew up hearing loads of stories about Aunt Polly.
It was amazing to see her in such august company. Since they were in alpha order, she was just below Rosa Parks and beside Georgia O’Keeffe. Wow!
From there we wandered on the main street for a bit, stopping at the visitors center/waterway museum, which was interesting, and a shop or two. Sadly, the yarn shop apparently is no more, a vacant store and a for rent sign sharing window space with a yarn sign. We drove about town a bit and saw lots of historical sites from the car, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s house, the Wesleyan Chapel, etc.
Then we went on a scenic drive down the side of Cayuga Lake to Ithaca and back, stopping for lunch and ice cream along the way. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and that felt really good after all the gray.
Today we are headed home, barreling east on Rte 90. A is in charge of the driving, so I can’t say if we will turn off onto Route 7 and meander back through Vermont and New Hampshire or if we will stay on the highway and blast through Massachusetts and head north from there. It’s another sunny day, lovely day for a drive!
Here is the only good photo I took, from Friday – road trip knitting! Pattern is Fine Sand, yarn is my own handspun. I got a lot done, with all these hours in the car!