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Better Days Reading Club – Week One: The Making of Seneca Falls

March 24, 2020

In light of recent events, we’re launching the Better Days Reading Club as a way to stay more connected and discuss topics we’d planned to explore at events this spring. At the beginning of every week, we’ll dig into an interesting article about the history of women’s voting rights and share a post with some thought-provoking questions. We’ll invite you to share your thoughts in the comments. Sound fun?

Up this week is the article “Fight by Remembering: The Making of Seneca Falls,” written by Dr. Lisa Tetrault. Tetrault published her book, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898, in 2014. In it, she discusses how Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton used the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 to frame the story of the women’s suffrage movement and place themselves at its head, even though Anthony wasn’t in attendance!

Tetrault shows how the ‘myth of Seneca Falls’ came to be as the single origin point of a movement with a single goal (the vote). She explains that the development of that story “tells us a great deal about how the [suffrage] movement restarted, defined and sustained itself.” As Tetrault writes, “People make stories. And people made this story, well after the event. They made it as a tool in their postwar fight for the vote. And it became a tool that served them well.”

This article sets the scene for the next nine weeks of our reading club will bring. There will be stories of hard work, people in power, grassroots efforts, and ultimately, of new voices being heard. Questions to consider include:

  • Why does it matter how and why we remember something?
  • How can we better remember that the 19th Amendment did not conclude the fight for suffrage rights?
  • How can we better remember participants in grassroots movements? The “everyday people” in history and not just the more recognized names?

Attached here is a downloadable PDF of the questions and summary above for use at home, with your family, or when chatting with friends online. Make sure to watch our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @betterdays2020 for the next few weeks of content, so you can follow along and become part of the Better Days Reading Club.

Until next week!