JOHNSTOWN – Local people are keeping the name and ideals of Elizabeth Cady Stanton alive.
Born in Johnstown in 1815, the American social activist, abolitionist and leading figure of the early women’s-rights movement is a big part of the history of the Colonial City.
June marked the fifth year since the incorporation of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association, which honors her legacy through community service and by sponsoring educational events.
“We want to educate people about her hometown,” association Chairwoman Shannon Kline said.
One of the association’s efforts is the Walk in the Footsteps of Elizabeth Cady Stanton cellphone tour.
Billed as a “one-hour, one-mile” tour by cellphone, it includes directions for 10 narrated stops in Johnstown.
The tour starts at Stanton’s birthplace and childhood home at what is currently the Bank of America at 51 W. Main St.
Other stops along the tour are: Johnstown Academy; the old Tryon County Jail, now the Fort Johnstown Annex; James Burk’s Inn, Mrs. Henry’s Boarding House, the Fulton County Courthouse, Colonial Cemetery, Scotch Presbyterian Church and the Elizabeth Cady Stanton marker in the Sir William Johnson downtown park.
Brown said the tour has documented more than 200 calls from visitors to Johnstown in five states.
She said descendents of Stanton – many of whom live in Greenwich, Conn. – are supportive of local Johnstown residents keeping her spirit alive.
Kline said the tour’s been ongoing for a couple years, but now “it’s a little more established tour.”
“That’s a very impressive tourism piece,” Mayor Sarah Slingerland said of the cellphone tour.
Participants can follow along with their cellphones and be directed to various sites in Stanton’s life. Those taking the tour call 406-7081. The call is free except for the caller’s minutes. Roaming charges apply.
The tour operates all year, association officials said.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association Treasurer Nancy Brown said the cellphone tour has been boosted by four members of Stanton’s family who provided sponsorships.
“You can literally walk in her footsteps,” Brown said.
She said the association has an extensive Stanton exhibit at the Bank of America.
Kline said the group also is involved in many activities that highlight Stanton’s life and the city.
The association wants Johnstown to be known as the birthplace of women’s equality.
Association members say they hope everyone who grows up in Fulton County learns about Stanton’s work. The group wants to serve women in a variety of capacities, just as Stanton did throughout her life.
“Our ultimate goal is to create an information center in Johnstown, complete with artifacts, interactive exhibits and meeting space,” the association’s website says. “It would be staffed and open regularly for residents and tourists visiting the rich heritage sites here in the Mohawk Valley at the ‘Gateway to the Adirondacks’ and feature the contribution to history of Johnstown’s most renowned and revered daughter, Elizabeth Cady Stanton.”
Rochester has been another historic place in New York state for women’s equality with the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House. It shares the story of Susan B. Anthony’s lifelong struggle to gain voting rights for women and equal rights for all. Kline said she went to college in Rochester and heard little there about Johnstown and the work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Brown said the association has “been busy” this year in Fulton County. The group in August conducted its annual Equality Day celebration, a garden party honoring Slingerland.
Thanks to a Stewart’s shops grant, the organization also created online lesson plans narrated by Coline Jenkins, Stanton’s great-great-granddaughter.
In an effort to reach out to younger women, the association also runs Elizabeth and Eileen’s Closet, which provides gently used prom dresses for high school girls in the region.
“This group is on fire,” Jenkins said. “It’s one of the most exciting groups I’ve worked with.”
The Stanton descendant said “an enormous credit” has to be given for many of the efforts in Johnstown in keeping Stanton’s work alive.
“Johnstown has played an incredibly important role on a national level,” Jenkins said. “This has been a phenomenal history of our nation.”
Many of the association’s activities are on its website –www.elizabethcadystantonhometown.org.
Brown said the 60 members of the association keep in contact through the group’s website.
Slingerland, a retiring mayor who has been involved in the association, said the group tries to introduce the ideals of Stanton into fourth-grade lesson plans.
She said the overall effort by the local association encompasses a large message.
“I think their basic mission is their concern over women’s issues,” Slingerland said. “But the mission also includes equality and social justice for everyone.”
For more information about the association, the public can call Brown at 773-8800 or 774-7282, or visit the association’s website.