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Keeper of the Light

Take a focus, add hard work, diligence, determination, smarts and a good degree of patience. Bring this to the democratic process and proceed with care. It happens everyday in our democracy, as it did in 1848 when the first convention was held in Seneca Falls to discuss women's rights.

At that time women could not own property, vote, hold a profession, go to college or divorce. If they found themselves divorced, they could not sue for custody of their children.

They had no rights, said Skaneateles resident Tina Orcutt, who is the Superintendent of the Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls.

It took another 72 years between the convention and when women legally were granted the right to vote in 1920.

This park, to commemorate the story of women's rights, was established in 1980. It was one of Jimmy Carter's last acts as president. It is called the Great Lighthouse, shedding a beacon on hope for equal rights into the world.

The park center is a three-story building housing a haunting sculpture area, the story, documents, a bookstore, gallery space and park offices located at 136 Fall Street in Seneca Falls. The grounds also host the ruin of the actual Wesleyan Chapel that housed the first convention and an installation consisting of a wall with falling water, on which is etched the Declaration of Sentiments, the mission statement developed at the first convention. The wall includes the 100 out of 300 conference attendees who signed the declaration of sentiments, as well as a list of men involved in the movement.

The moving water is a symbol of their enduring relevance, Orcutt said.

The park also includes additional sites in Seneca Falls and Waterloo, where a new property, the Hunt House, has yet to open. It is where women first came together and this gave them the courage to consider the convention.

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