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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.