It was in the tiny upstate New York town of Seneca Falls in 1848 that the Women’s Rights Movement got its start. Today, that history is still celebrated as home of the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
2019 marks the Hall’s 50th anniversary, which every other year inducts a new class of women, honoring them for their enduring contributions to the nation and the world.
The 276 women whose photos currently hang on the walls include authors, actresses, athletes and of course, the suffragists. Many are world famous, while others, you have never even heard of.
“That’s the beauty of visiting the Hall. People ask ‘Why have I not heard of this person? Why don’t I know about the woman who invented pediatric cardiac surgery techniques?'” says Betty Bayer, Board President for the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Visitors will find plenty of famous faces in the Hall, but will also find cherished artifacts, like the program from Billie Jean King’s match with Bobby Riggs, an outfit donated by Amelia Earhart’s family and a torch carried from Seneca Falls to a women’s march in Texas.
Many items remain in storage because the Hall of Fame has outgrown its space, but that is about to change. The Seneca Knitting Mill, four times the size of the current Hall, is currently being transformed into the tourist destination’s new home. Built when the Women’s Right’s Movement was born, it will be a world-class showplace for the history of American women.
“Even our small little hall is inspiring and this one will be so much better,” says Jean Giovannini, Chair of the Mill Rehabilitation Project.
It is on the third floor of the new space that the past and present will really come together. Visitors can look across the water and see the Wesleyan Chapel, the site of the Women’s Right’s Convention of 1848.
“There is nothing little about this project,” says Brennan Gilbane Koch of the Gilbane Building Company. “This is a special project that will leave a community stronger and better and leave a history honoring women that have done incredible things.”
The new Hall of Fame is being built in phases, with the first expected to be completed by September, just in time for the induction of this year’s class.