Visit These Hudson Valley Sites to Celebrate Women’s History

Visit these local spots to learn about the lives and achievements of six women whose words and actions helped shape our country.

Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill in Hyde Park | Wikimedia Commons, photo by Acroterion

Visit these local spots to learn about the lives and achievements of the Hudson Valley women who helped to shape the nation.

Sojourner Truth Freedom Trail, Ulster County

Isabella Baumfree escaped slavery in 1826 and later traveled the country as an ardent advocate of the Abolitionist and women’s rights movements under the name Sojourner Truth. Find tributes to Truth across Ulster County — including the SUNY New Paltz library named after her, and a statue in Port Ewen. Of course, Truth’s statue at the Highland entrance of the Walkway Over the Hudson State Park is a stunning tribute to her impressive life.

Related: A History of Sojourner Truth’s Life and Roots in the Hudson Valley

Val-kill photo provided by Dutchess Tourism
Val-kill | Photo courtesy of Dutchess Tourism, Inc.

Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill, Hyde Park

Visit Val-Kill, the home of the former First Lady and a National Historic Site in Hyde Park, to learn about her dedication to civil and women’s rights and to enjoy the picturesque property’s nature trails. In Dutchess County, Roosevelt hosted world leaders, creatives, and domestic politicians. In addition, she famously sought the support of people that didn’t hold governmental power from women navigating a male-dominated society to troubled youth from the Wiltwuck School. Val-Kill became the first national historic site dedicated to a First Lady in 1976.

Related: The Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill Honors Chelsea Clinton and Change Makers

african american history
The Albany residence of Stephen and Harriet Myers | Wikimedia Commons, photo by tfurco

Underground Railroad, Nyack and Albany

Harriet Tubman bravely led hundreds of slaves to freedom through this secret trail, which passed through the Hudson Valley. A commemorative market on Rt. 59 in Nyack honors one of these stops, specifically the former home of Cynthia Hesdra. It was believed to be a link in the Underground Railroad, as Nyack is the mid-point between two important stops: Jersey City and Newburgh. Though Hesdra spent a portion of her life as a slave, she eventually went on to own several businesses in Nyack and grew quite wealthy.

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In addition, the Stephen and Harriet Meyers Residence in Albany is another key location. Harriet, a freed slave, spent 30 years helping other African Americans escape from slavery. Today, the stately brick townhouse is listed on the New York State Underground Railroad Heritage Trail and is a site on the National Park Service’s National Network to Freedom.

Related: 8 Historical Sites Integral to Black History in the Hudson Valley

Catherine_Van_Rensselaer_Crop (1)
Catherine Van Rensselaer (Mrs. Philip Schuyler) | Baxter, Katharine Schuyler (1897) A Godchild of Washington: A Picture of the Past, F. Tennyson Neely | Wikimedia Commons

Schuyler Mansion, Albany

Fan of Hamilton? Matriarch of the Schuyler family, Catherine Van Rensselaer made an impressive mark on the Hudson Valley. She often took command of operations at the Schuyler Mansion in her husband Philip’s absence. In fact, his will stipulated she would be the sole supervisor of the 80-acre estate. In 1775, Philip was forced to leave his regiment due to illness. Catherine bravely journeyed to Fort Ticonderoga to care for him, and brought him back to Albany. The mansion reopens for tours in May 2022.

Related: Catherine Schuyler: A Force in the Hudson Valley During the Revolution

Emma Willard School in Troy / Photo by Erin Schaff
Emma Willard School in Troy | Photo by Erin Schaff

Emma Willard School, Troy

Women’s rights activist Emma Willard was so dedicated to equal rights that she opened her own school. In fact, she taught herself geometry at the early age of 13 and attended the illustrious Berlin Academy. After teaching at a girls’ school in Vermont, she opened her namesake institution. The Troy school first welcomed students in 1814, providing high-quality education that was previously unavailable for girls, and specifically girls of a lower socio-economic status.

Related: Trace the Hudson Valley Roots of the Women’s Suffrage Movement

Sarah Wells Trail, Orange County

Sarah Wells became the first European to settle in Goshen in 1712, after leaving the then-tiny town of Manhattan. She established a homestead on behalf of the Denne family, in exchange for land of her own. Wells sailed up the Hudson, and traveled along the Moodna Creek in Otterkill. Historic markers retrace her path, leading to the 10-room stone house in Campbell Hall where she started a family.

Steepletop, Columbia County

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay’s works inspired social change. Though her house in Austerlitz is closed to the public (outside of special events), guests can walk through verdant gardens at Steepletop. Notably, she responded to an ad in the New York Times for an abandoned hilltop berry farm. The 700 acres of farmland at Steepletop served as a creative workshop for the writer. Siberian iris rock gardens, and outdoor bar on flagstone, a spring-fed pool, and a stately rose garden rounds out a few of the visual highlights.

Related: Explore Martha Washington’s Impact in the Hudson Valley 

Sybil Ludington Statue in Carmel | Wikimedia Commons, Photo by Anthony22

Sybil Ludington’s Route/Statue, Carmel

Of course, women played a key role in the American Revolutionary War. Few figures are better known for their courage than Sybil Ludington. In 1777, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington rode 40 miles through Dutchess and Putnam County on horseback to warn General George Washington of an imminent British attack. Her father was an officer in the local militia, and he often served as an aide to Washington. When she returned from her journey, spreading word of the advance on Danbury, some 400 troops gathered at the Ludington residence. Her ride covers nearly double the ground as Paul Revere’s famed Boston trek. Find route markers around Putnam County and a memorial statue beside Carmel’s Lake Gleneida.

Related: Discover Two Revolutionary Heroines of Hudson Valley History

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