Women’s Rights National Historical Park Convention Days Reflections
Written by: Alyssa Eveland
Over half way through my position with ACE I was finally on site! As a part of my position, I was asked to be on site for the 2022 Convention Days, celebrating the 174th anniversary of the first Women’s Rights convention held in Seneca Falls NY in 1848. While this isn’t my first convention days it was my first doing anything other than just staffing one of the park properties. Every year there is a live reading of the Declaration of Sentiments which was read for the first time in the Wesleyan Chapel at that first convention. Typically, a living historian playing Elizabeth Cady Stanton, author of the document, does the reading. This year due to unforeseen circumstances the historian couldn’t be there to do the reading. Thus, two days before the opening ceremony was set to occur, I was asked to do the reading. I was asked due to my previous experience delivering interpretive programing and public speaking, while knowing this didn’t stop me from feeling nervous, I didn’t let my nerves stop me. The reading went well, it was a sunny warm day and the audience had a positive reaction to it. At the end of my reading the living historian portraying Frederick Douglass thrust his cane up in the air and yelled “Agitate!”
A few days after my reading while going over my experience at convention days with my park supervisor she told me that someone was so impacted by the simple act of using they/them pronouns in my introduction prior to my reading that the visitor went up and thanked park staff for being gender inclusive in the ceremony. Seeing someone who was not of cis identity was itself impactful for them. I started to tear up when I was told all this. I hadn’t put much of any thought into what pronouns I was using in the intro. I am privileged enough to live a life where I don’t have to think about it too often or worry over it. Hearing how much this little act meant to someone is a beautiful reminder of how simply living your life the way you want to can bring hope to other people. Something the organizers of the first Women’s Rights convention believed in deeply.