After a longer-than-expected hiatus, the New York Rediscovered blog is coming back to life.
I returned from my wonderful fall leave in Florence, Italy to full-time teaching and deputy-chairing at SUNY New Paltz this term; the adjustment wrecked havoc on my best intentions. There is a token-ish quality in the yearly discovery that African Americans and women need to be injected into the curriculum, or public programming.
What happens when we run out of months? This approach also hints at a kind of compensatory history, one that searches for examples of women or Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Italians, etc.
My viewpoint is that we do not need to inject women into history, we simply need to recognize them and restore them. That is, all these peoples were there to begin with. It is history itself that somehow ignored or erased them. New York State was built by women as well as men, and what they did was important —too important to be segregated into one month a year. It is certainly true that the most important and influential women in United States history were either from or made their careers or both in New York State.
I believe that this excellent exhibit just closed after more than a year on display should serve as a model for an updated New York State History that integrates all participants and all areas of the state into a single narrative of many voices.
More to follow next week. My final blog of the year is based on my own research into the diary of Emma Waite, housed in the Manuscripts and Special Collections unit of the New York State Library. InI was the fortunate recipient of an Anna K. Since this was the record of a worker rather than a businesswoman, I resisted his advice. One day, because my own efforts continued to prove futile, I decided that I might as well examine the diary. The book includes a story about Tantaque, a Munsee Indian, and his meeting with two Labadists in Manhattan on October 16, Interesting as the Labadists were, I was more intrigued by the fact that the authors of Unearthing Gotham named an individual Munsee—Tantaque—and were able to fill in some of his biography.
Yet I realized that I had never heard a Munsee Indian from this period named or personalized in any way. In most of my readings, the Munsee people were characterized as a group. None of them, in my memory, had individual names or lives that one could trace. This delicate image symbolizes the intersecting stories of three New Yorkers: the painter John Vanderlynhis patron, Aaron Burr, Jr.
All three stories represent different degrees of unfulfilled promise and unhappy endings. The most familiar name of these three is that of Aaron Burr.
Like Benedict Arnold, about whom I wrote in a blog, Burr is considered one of the great villains of New York history—most famous for killing his political rival Alexander Hamilton in a duel in Burr was a clever, cultured, and well-educated man who grew up in New Jersey his father was the second president of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, and his maternal grandfather was the famous minister Jonathan Edwards. Orphaned as a toddler and raised by relatives, Burr was admitted to college at the age of 13, and studied theology and law after his graduation.
How did women get the right to vote in New York State? Most of my students assume that all women in the United States were granted suffrage at the same time, as the result of the 19 th Amendment to the U. Constitution, passed in To the contrary, women won the vote across the country in an irregular, piecemeal fashion.
The territory of Wyoming allowed women to vote inand ed the union in as the first state where women could vote in all elections. For example, in some states or localities women could vote in presidential elections, primaries, municipal elections, or school board elections. Often my students assume that New Yorkers Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were responsible for winning the suffrage campaign. Unfortunately, neither lived to see women gain the vote either nationally or state-wide.
Essentially, they failed—not for lack of energy, organization, or compelling arguments, but because they were unable to convince the male voters of their period that women needed or deserved the vote. Even the majority of women in the United States were probably not persuaded that enfranchising women was a good idea at the time that Stanton and Anthony died andrespectively. Surprisingly to us today, there was actually a strong anti-suffrage movement led by women, including a chapter in New York.
Despite the fact that he spent many of his productive years abroad, Washington Irving was a quintessential New Yorker. His fictional characters Rip Van Winkle and Ichabod Crane are recognizable to most of us today through various adaptations of their stories some having very little relationship to the originals, as with the current Fox series Sleepy Hollowa surprise hit just renewed for a second season.
In fact, after the village of North Tarrytown lost its General Motors assembly plant init actually changed its name to Sleepy Hollow to increase tourism, and the new TV series has furthered that goal. There was a busy, bustling, disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy tranquility. Last week, we took Arnold through the fall ofand the Battle at Valcour Island. Enemies—he seems to have made many—had turned Congress against him. However, on his way to Philadelphia to discuss the matter that April, Arnold learned that the British were about to attack Ridgefield, Connecticut, and he ed the defense, led the militia, and was wounded again in the left leg—the very leg represented in the boot monument on the field at Saratoga.
He was finally promoted after his action and wounding in Connecticut, although he continued to resent that his seniority was less than others who had been promoted in the interim between when he felt the promotion was deserved and when it actually took place. In addition, he had to defend himself against charges of corruption brought by an enemy officer.
Although Arnold threatened to retire, Washington insisted that he was needed for the defense against the British invasion of New York from the north and west. If these forces could meet with an expected expedition up the Hudson from New York City, it was hoped by the British, and feared by the Americans, that New England would be cut off from the rest of the states.
Arguably the most famous traitor in American history—a man whose name is still synonymous with betrayal—Arnold was born and grew up in Connecticut, and died in England. Yet the momentous events of his career took place in New York, and Arnold was one of the most important Revolutionary War heroes before he transformed himself into a villain.
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In fact, it was his fall from grace that makes his treason so notorious. As one of the most demonized figures in our history, it is not surprising that the memorial to his service is simply a mysterious sculpture of a boot on which his name never appears. Arnold was not only the hero of the Battle of Saratoga in —the pivotal battle of the war—but also contributed to the U. Yet the Wrights, though they were the first to successfully test a flying machine, are only a small part of the story of the development of powered aircraft.
New York State was actually at the center of aviation pioneering in the years between andwith developments concentrated first near Keuka Lake, then on Hempstead Plains. This period of aviation history highlights New York as a center of innovation, leadership, competition, and capitalism.
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The first name in New York aviation was Glenn H. ByCurtiss had moved from motorcycles to flying, and began testing his planes by taking off on the frozen surface of Keuka Lake. When Scientific American organized a three-part contest that year, Curtiss set out to win all three competitions. Curtiss not only deed and flew his planes, but built the special high-powered, water-cooled V-8 engines that ran them. Most New Yorkers probably recognize the names of Susan B. Like Anthony and Stanton, Gage began her activism in the abolition movement, but devoted most of her life to fighting gender inequality.
Gage also became an advocate for Native American rights.
As a married woman and mother, Gage lived in Fayetteville, a village east of Syracuse, where her home also became a refuge for enslaved people attempting to escape their bondage. Her speech included these words:.
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Although our country makes great professions in regard to general liberty, yet the right to particular liberty, natural equality, and personal independence, of two great portions of this country, is treated, from custom, with the greatest contempt; and color in the one instance, and sex in the other, are brought as reasons why they should be so derided; and the mere mention of such, natural rights is frowned upon, as tending to promote sedition and anarchy.
A from the diary. Button from Curtiss Junebug. Her speech included these words: Although our country makes great professions in regard to general liberty, yet the right to particular liberty, natural equality, and personal independence, of two great portions of this country, is treated, from custom, with the greatest contempt; and color in the one instance, and sex in the other, are brought as reasons why they should be so derided; and the mere mention of such, natural rights is frowned upon, as tending to promote sedition and anarchy.