On a beautiful fall day in late September, I traveled from DC to Syracuse, NY to attend the 117th New York State Conference, Martha Morris Crapser, State Regent. Met at the airport by Ann Davis and Judy Eves, it was a treat to enjoy the first glimpse of fall color in mid-New York.
The first event was the Awards tea at which chapters were presented with certificates received at Congress. With a theme of “Trail Blazers” the conference opened with a Business session Friday morning at which reports were presented by the State Officers and Chairs.
At breakfast Friday morning, members of the Oneida Chapter presented a delightful skit on the changing role of women of the DAR. Among those included were a founding member, Suffragette, Rosie the Riveter, housewife, one wearing a poodle skirt, one participating in a fitness program and a chapter regent dressed in red, white and blue and waving a flag. It was quite entertaining!
Following the Trail Blazers theme, the luncheon speaker, Dr. Dan Ward, Curator of the Erie Canal Weighlock Museum, educated and entertained us about the Erie Canal which was established in 1817 and dug from Albany to Buffalo. The Museum is located in the only remaining weighlock building in America, built in 1850. Dr. Ward explained that ships using the canal were charged a toll based on the weight of the cargo. At the beginning of the shipping season, the ships were weighed empty and a chart was created with the empty weight of each vessel. Thereafter when traveling the canal, they entered a structure built over the canal, the gates were closed and the water was drained. A scale weighed the boat and charged a toll based on the weight. Following the luncheon we had the opportunity to visit the Museum and learn more about this important aspect of our history.
It was a pleasure to welcome 80 members of the Heritage Club, Founders Club and 1890 Giving Circle to a reception in their honor and to express our gratitude for their gifts to the National Society.
The Friday Banquet was a welcome home celebration honoring Merry Ann Wright, Honorary President General and Honorary State Regent of New York. Several of us had the opportunity to share humorous stories and special memories of Merry Ann and she shared highlights of her immensely successful term as President General.
Following the Saturday morning business session, the Honorary State Regents joined the conference guests for tea at the Matilda Joslyn Gage home in Fayetteville, NY, escorted by Vice Regent Nancy Zwetsch and Priscilla Davis. This remarkable woman worked closely with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to fight for women’s rights, including the right to vote and equal pay for equal work. It was amusing to see a pamphlet available in the gift shop priced at $1.00 for men and $.77 for women.
Denise D. VanBuren, Organizing Secretary General and Honorary State Regent of New York, joined me at the Mrs. Gage’s desk and we imagined what it was like to be a woman of vision as was Mrs. Gage. Strongly opposed to slavery, her home is the only documented site of the Underground Railroad in Fayetteville. The mother of five, her youngest daughter married Frank Baum who entertained them with stories he’d written about a mythical Land of Oz It was Mrs. Gage who urged him to compile the stories which became The Wizard of Oz.
The Yellow Rose Banquet Saturday evening was opened with a female color guard, led by Division Director Lt. Col. Roberta Comerford. I had the opportunity to share the goals of the Young Administration as well as update the over 340 guests of the activities at Headquarters. The New York Society presented a generous gift to the President General’s Project and a beautiful crystal apple as a memento.
Following a touching Memorial Service at which the Empire State Chorus offered hymns, it was time to return to the airport for the short flight to DC and a very busy week at Headquarters.