Fame & Seneca Falls

On October 5, 2002, the quiet town of Seneca Falls, New York, enjoyed a rare visit from the Secret Service: former First Lady Rosalynn Carter was being inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame [NWHF]. That accounted for the Secret Service, but I was there for another inductee who would not have commanded, or have wanted, high-level security: Dorothy Day. My good friend, and early Catholic Worker, Margaret Driscoll had been promoting Dorothy’s admission to the select company for three years, and I was there to share her success.

I had made the six-hour drive from Vermont to upstate New York for other reasons as well. The "crisis in the church," particularly the sex scandals, had caused certain icons of virtue to fall from my personal hall of fame. In Seneca Falls, however, I would be in the company of trusted friends and honorable women. Our sole purpose was to celebrate, to now praise famous women.

Driving west to Seneca Falls along Interstate 90 offers an opportunity for contemplating "fame." You pass the Boxing Hall of Fame at Canastota, New York, and the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. Seneca Falls is the home of the NWHF because it was the site of the first women’s rights convention in 1848. The suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton lived there, and was unable to leave her large brood of children.

I have never visited those shrines to male prowess...

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About the Author

Judith Johnson O’Brien is past chair of Catholic Family Center in Rochester, New York. She currently lives in Vermont.