Destination: Girl Power

At J’s school, they make a big deal about the 4th grade’s “Spotlight on New York” project. Each child researches a different New York-related person, place, or thing, culminating in a big display of their research with papers and tri-fold presentation boards and the occasional sculpture or diorama. When M did it, her topic was Ellis Island, and we’ve still never been to Ellis Island. It is three years later, and I regret that I didn’t make time to go to Ellis Island for her research project, especially after I overheard the school librarian talking about how great it is to go visit whatever topic you’re researching. Talk about a guilt trip.

It feels like only a few years ago, I was much less inclined to take road trips. I hate driving and I have no sense of direction, so I’ve always been reluctant. But in the past year, between far-away soccer tournaments and gymnastics meets and a one-day round trip to Cape Cod, I’ve become much more easily reconciled to the idea of jumping into the car and going somewhere. And I like it. I feel like, as a family, we are way too apt to just slob around if we don’t have a specific plan in mind.

So when J arrived home and announced she’d been assigned one of her top choices, Susan B. Anthony, as her topic, I figured that April break was a great opportunity to take that Girl Power Road Trip that I’d  been thinking I should do for a while. It was particularly well-timed, because I’d just finished Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World, which I really loved. I loved the portrayal of their friendship, including some fun quips and the two of them complaining about women fighting against the right to vote, calling them jackasses. It was a very accessible history, so much so that now J’s reading some of it.

Anyway, on Tuesday we drove out to visit the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, spent the night there in Rochester, and then headed home by way of Seneca Falls, home of the first Women’s Rights Convention and the Women’s Right National Historic Park.

I thought that I’d be very clever and get the girls prepared by having them watch Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony
during the drive west. This turned out to be a miscalculation. The girls thought it was too slow-moving, and then when we arrived at our destinations, much of the information was repeated, which detracted from the tours. It was a good try, though.  A better idea was to Yelp it up in search of fun food, and we arrived in Rochester just in time for lunch.

Okay, so what’s the deal with all of the Ethiopian restaurants in Rochester? I don’t know, but we’d never tried Ethiopian food before, so we headed to Zemeta to give it a shot. Following the advice of reviewers, we ordered the vegetarian combination, which was huge. Here’s the platter:

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There’s some green salad, a couple of different kinds of lentils, some potatoes, some green beans, some spinach, and much more, all served with rolls of injera, a squishy-spongy, sour bread. We also tried a chicken dish, and a lovely beef dish that looked like a floral bouquet:

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The forks are deceptive in that first dish, because you’re supposed to eat with your hands, so that was new for us. There were tons of different things to try, and between our three dishes, the girls and I all found things that we liked, and we ate until we were slightly too full. Will Ethiopian supplant our ethnic favorites (Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, & Mexican)? Umm. . . no. But we were glad to have tried something new.

Then it was time to head to the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House. This is one of those historic houses that you can only walk through with a tour guide, and there are no pictures allowed, so here’s your one-and-only photo:

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I actually forgot all about the blog while we were there, and I just took a bunch of pictures of J for her project. But if you look at this one closely, all three of us are in it: there’s the top of J’s head, then a reflection of me with my camera in the window next to her, and M’s reflection in the next. The tour was pretty good, and the staff were supremely friendly. They had a special packet full of information that they gave to J when they learned that she was working on a school project. It was cool to see historic photographs of Miss Anthony (as they called her during the tour) in her home, knowing that we were standing in the same place.

After the tour, we went just down the street to check out the sculpture of Miss Anthony having tea with Frederick Douglass.

 

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After that, we were craving a little good old-fashioned comfort food after our lunch of Culinary Adventure. We headed to Hedonist Artisan Ice Cream, where the girls had chocolate that they both declared the best chocolate ice cream they’d ever had, and I ate some salted caramel that was almost too salty for me.

Then we headed to the brand-new Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Rochester. This was fun because they’ve only been open for a little more than a week, and I got a tour of it so that I could write up a review for KidsOutAndAbout (and yes, you can read it here).

I loved the elegant Tiffany lighting throughout the hotel. Seriously, if I ever win the lottery, I will find a designer and say, “Bring me light fixtures like the ones from that Hilton Garden Inn!” I couldn’t stop taking photographs of it, which wasn’t particularly relevant for the review, but here are a few:

Pretty, right?

Before our trip, we had made Yelp plans to head to SEA Restaurant for some Vietnamese food, and we weren’t feeling particularly energetic after a museum tour, ice cream, and some hotel pool swimming. . . but we rallied. And I’m glad we did, because it was yumma. I particularly appreciated that there were plenty of vegetables in all of our dishes, so it felt pretty light. . . .

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Which was good, because after my tour of the hotel, I felt morally obligated to try the homemade potato chips because. . . well, because a good reviewer who hears about homemade potato chips must order some. It was, like, a sacred obligation. So we had a late-night snack.

In the morning we headed back east to Seneca Falls and the Women’s Right National Historic Park. Honestly, a visit during the summer would have been better timing, because there are a cluster of different places to visit, and they weren’t all open in April (like Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s house). But the National Park Service’s Visitor Center was absolutely worth the trip. There were a tons of exhibits. Because Susan B. Anthony wasn’t at the first women’s rights convention, there wasn’t too much about her, but there was enough to keep J happy. She liked standing at the pulpit, imitating Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

 

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They’ve got a nice space for little kids, too.

 

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And there are a bunch of exhibits on a variety of topics, like women and girls and sports, with stories from long ago as well as more recent history.

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And they do a terrific job of drawing parallels between distant history and issues today, like uncomfortable corsets and current fashion trends.

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Another part I liked was a spot where there were face holes that you could look through and into the mirror, so girls could envision themselves having different jobs, like a construction worker or President of the United States. You can’t be what you can’t see, right? J was inspired, too: she wrote on the chalkboard:

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“I don’t want to be first lady. I want to be PRESIDENT.” Hmmm. . . sounds like some other woman I know.

Before heading back home, we stopped at the statue along the river commemorating the first time Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton met, when they were introduced by Amelia Bloom (note the once-scandalous bloomers that they’re wearing–which reminds me, I put all this history to use in a letter to the editor, smacking down a woman who said that girls should stop whining about inequality and just be grateful that no one’s throwing acid in their faces. And then I was annoyed, because the Gazette put out a tremendously irritating editorial about how parents are mindless sheep following the lead of the self-serving, conniving teachers’ union, but someone else is going to have to write to them about that, because I was just in the damn paper. Incidentally, checking those links made me realize that the last few letters critical of the governor regarding education “reform” are ending up online only instead of in the paper–coincidence?).

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The girls were excited to see this in person, because I actually have a photograph of it at my desk. We took some more pictures where it looks like they’re all hanging out together.

And then it was back into the car and home on Wednesday, with just a bit of spare time to tidy up the house for the second half of our spring break, a visit from Grandma and Grandpa!

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