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My Reaction to the Presentation in the

Women's Rights Museum

Seneca Falls, New York


Martha Treichler

When our New Society of the Genesee visited the Women's Rights Museum, I was already familiar with the Declaration of Sentiments, and with the life of Frederick Douglass, and I was sure that I was in total sympathy with their ideas on the equality of women.

My tour of the museum, however, left a niggling irritation in my mind. I noticed that the creators of the museum, more by implication than outright statements, linked the subjugation of women to women's housework and childcare.

Every exhibit in the museum seemed to be encouraging women to get out of the house and seek a man's career. To me there is a difference between women having full control of their persons and their property, the right to pursue any goal they choose and the right to keep any wages they earn, and the idea that they are not emancipated unless they give up housekeeping and child care and take up work thought of as a man's job.

Since I believe that parenting is the most important job that a man or a woman can do, I would like the exhibits in the Women's Rights Museum to make perfectly clear that women should have their full rights and complete equality with men, without either sex giving up the most important occupation in the world, parenting and homemaking.

I had the feeling that the Women's Rights Museum was rewriting history by equating the freedom of women with their getting out of the house. Fortunately, historians are beginning to see that housekeeping and child care are worth researching and documenting and that the history of the activities of women and children is as important as the history of the activities of men -- that the activities that went on in the home are at least as important as the activities that went on outside the home.

© 2002, Martha Treichler
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