Change of scenery

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!

28 thoughts on “Change of scenery”

  1. How interesting and wonderful to have such a person in your family history. And no, it wasn’t easy to be a successful, intelligent woman in the 1890s. I’ll never look at frozen vegetables again without thinking of her hard work. It figures, though, that it would be a woman who would perfect that discovery because it is so sensible and practical.

    1. Lol I know! I often think of her in the freezer section of the store! Birdseye figured out how to freeze the veggies, but he couldn’t move them. She figured out how he could move them. 😉

      She surely had to be miles better than all men around her, just to keep even, but at least she was allowed to do it. Plenty of other women who wanted non-traditional education and careers were not able to get them. I suspect she was excellent at language as well, so she could state her case forcefully. 😂

      Her sister was also smart and a gifted artist, but she married and had children, so not much career options for her. However, she did illustrate several things for Aunt Polly – USDA handbooks, and possibly some of the patent drawings.

  2. It is always great to hear of inspiring people and the fact that this is your aunt is amazing. (great Aunt) What a fun gift to give your mother. I’m hearing of more yarn shops closing and that is tough news. I try hard to support my LYS so it stays open!

    1. It has been a fun weekend! And inspiring to learn about so many amazing women all at once!

      I also strive to keep my LYS profitable. 😉. Competing against the internet is tough.

    1. It is a good spring trip – and coming across Mass and ip to Maine was good, because you guys have buds on your red maples and weeping willows! It’s coming, it’s coming!

      Love the VT country store! So many little things to look at and buy.

  3. Firstly, yes, your Aunt Polly sounds like an awesome woman. Of course, I’m curious if she was a member of “our team,” but that’s just me (maybe). I’ve driven past the sign for the Hall of Fame many times. Now I want to stop and check it out. Thanks for the review! Also, your knitting looks great. So are you saying that you didn’t end up at a yarn store on LYS day? I know it’s not for lack of trying! Finally, the Vermont Country Store is also on my list! Sounds like a great weekend all around!

    1. We don’t know if Polly was on our team, no one would discuss that in those days. She did have a companion/ housekeeper, so I rather suspect she might have been.

      Yes, next time you are over that way, it is worth a stop. It can be quick, but leave yourself time to stop, read and absorb. The stories are kind of amazing, especially in that context, one after another, women who fought or stood up. Real heroes.

      I did not go near a yarn store on LYS day, can you believe it? I work to support mine year round, lol. I will be there next Saturday.

      We did have fun, just sorry it is so short. On the last leg of the journey home now- Maine Turnpike for a few hours, then the secondary roads for a few hours. 😊

        1. I know what you mean! I think of questions every day I wish I could ask my grandmother. Mom and my aunts know a lot but Dad never much cared about it so he doesn’t know info from farther back.

  4. Polly sounds like a force to be reckoned with–how amazing to have her recognized in the HOF, with our other heroes. My last name is Sanger and I keep hoping I’m related to Margaret Sanger . . . but my cousin, who knows these things, says no. 😦 Your trip sounds like lots of fun!

    1. I expect she had some drive!

      As for the Sangers, your cousin just didn’t go back far enough, right? I am sure some where way back, you shared an ancestor. 😉

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. In 1970 when I first attended Texas A&M University, women were not officially offered entrance – that happened in 1972. We had no dorms on campus and only one women’s restroom in the Memorial Student Center. I wasn’t there to break any barriers, just a good location and a scholarship that enabled me to go to college. As I made my way through, I came to truly appreciate the strong women in history. If my education was as ‘interesting’ as it was, I can only imagine what Aunt Polly went through 80 years before! What an amazing woman and what strength it took to make her way – I’m so very proud of her and so impressed. Loved the story and love your handspun and knitting too!

    1. thanks – and good for you going where you did – amazing that these things were still happening in our lifetime, after all the fighting that our foremothers did to open things up. Funny they gave you a scholarship but did not admit you officially – sounds pretty wild! When will men learn that they can not keep us down?

      1. It was only when I was a little older and had gone through some of the discrimination at school that I recognized the irony. My parents (God bless ’em!) taught me I could do anything – all I had to do was my best every day. So, I was ill-prepared for the real world – my initial reaction was that I just didn’t understand! Hard to believe that school was almost 50 years ago! Your aunt was a hero and paved the way for the rest of us. Some things have changed so much. Sadly, some still haven’t.

        1. That “you can do anything” else s so good in one way – keeping your mind open to opportunities- and so hard in another. You don’t know that there are people out there who work to keep you from doing anything. But if you believe you can do anything, one of those things is rising up and going forward in spite of those people. Good for you sticking it out and getting that education!

  6. Did you get to stop at all in Ithaca? Ithaca is Gorges after all. I lived there 5 years in my early adulthood and would do so again in a heartbeat.

    Grew up near Seneca Falls as well, though I never did get in to see the Women’s Hall of Fame. Aunt Polly sounds super awesome, someone we’d all enjoy knowing.

    1. We didn’t actually stop there drove down, ate lunch at a roadside restaurant, drove back, stopped at Cayuga Creamery for an ice cream, went back to the hotel and zonked out.

      I didn’t realize you were from those parts! Small world.

      The Hall of Fame was interesting, in a very introverted way. So many powerful women!

  7. I put an answer in my comments re: the window washy thing. I love the product. It makes me feel like my windows have had a good washing! I use it at least twice a year and should probably use it more! GOod luck. Let me know if you like it.

    1. thank you! I saw that answer. I will definitely let you know how it goes. PLain hosing does nothing. We have two windows that are up high and don’t flip open for washing, so they desperately need attention.

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