Upcoming Spring Doings!

New_York_Fair,_Yonkers,_1913_floatReadings and Appearances featuring NY Votes for Women: A Suffrage Centennial Anthology:

Tuesday March 6: 6:00 PM:  Lifelong, 119 West Court Street Ithaca NY

Thursday March 8: 6:00 PM:  Card Carrying Books and Gifts, 15 East Market Street, Suite 102, Corning NY – International Women’s Day Celebration!

Friday March 9: Interview taping with Pegasys – stay tuned for airing dates!

Saturday April 14: 2:00-4:00 pm: Author event, Barnes & Noble Ithaca.



Conversations a Year After the March

(an excerpt from remarks at Women TIES Women Rising Weekend Event, 1.19.18)

-Stacey Murphy

Bodies minds power
Poster at the Women’s March on Washington DC, January 21, 2017

Last January, I was on my way to the Women’s March in Washington DC.  I was on a bus full of other women, and we were sitting in traffic on the Beltway around the City.  It was full of vehicles, not moving – the regular traffic combined with buses coming in from all over the East meant things were at a standstill.  Looking out the window, I saw some movement at the edge of the treeline about 50 yards away from the road.  Several men were emerging from the woods.  And then a few more.  I recognized the gleaming from the sun hitting the barrels of the shotguns they carried and a chill went through me.   They were advancing quickly on the stopped busses, some lowering the barrels, running toward us.  I couldn’t shout.  Other women on the bus were starting to notice them, too.  We were trapped.  I couldn’t scream.

I sat up, straight in bed.  It was still two weeks before the 2017 Women’s March.

I told no one about that nightmare, including the friends who were planning to come with me from Ithaca – I was pretty sure none of them had previous protest experience and I didn’t want to frighten them. I certainly wasn’t telling my mother about that dream!

Instead, I sat with those images and vision, and how stress shows up in our subconscious.  Some dreams are hard to decipher but this time, my fear was clear.  That my country, that all I took for granted as my rights in this country as a woman, SHOULD be able to take for granted, might be taken away after the inauguration.   Just like that.  Like someone hitting a light switch.  What were we going to find there, in DC?

Luckily the DC March was nothing like that.  It was powerful, delightful even.  And in the months between then and now, I have devoted a lot of time to a project to do the opposite of that nightmarish feeling of no voice – to give women a forum to use their voices.  That is this book – NY Votes for Women:  A Suffrage Centennial Anthology.

I worked with Nora Snyder, who writes for her website Illuminous Flux and convenes a writer’s group, the Writers Block Party, and with Cayuga Lake Books.  We put it together quickly.  With 2017 as the anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in NY we wanted to have it out and done during the year.  In all, it contains twenty-two women’s words in a variety of engaging essays, stories and poems.

A big part of the project is about making a forum for voices.  The book contains contributions from previously published, known writers and also from women who had not been moved to reflect on the significance of the women’s movement, or current events, or even to share their voices through their writing much before.   Nora led a number of creative writing sessions through the Writers Block Party, and a few of the pieces in the Anthology had their origins in those meet-ups.

And now, a year after the inauguration, the conversations continue.  Voice has taken on a new turn because the Anthology has led to a number of interesting, important feeling discussions between myself and others, particularly men.   Some of them have been pretty awkward but some wonderful and I believe that they have their place in moving things forward – it’s another way of not silencing, of finding words that can make things better for the girls and boys too in our lives.  For them, we have to do better.

11.20.17 The Seneca Falls Reading: Still Persisting.


Quote from SF

These were the words in an email from the Women’s Rights National Historic Park.  It was about four weeks until our reading there.  Part of the material from NY Votes for Women: A Suffrage Centennial Anthology was deemed political enough that we would have to make use of the free speech zone in order to read it in a government-managed facility, instead of just holding the whole thing in the Wesleyan Chapel as planned.  The permit I completed was clearly meant for more than a couple dozen people listening to poems; one of the questions asked me to check a box if I “anticipated any counter protests”.   I did not.

The First Amendment Area is the grassy spot between the Visitor’s Center and the Wesleyan Chapel, where the rest of the reading would begin.  The irony of our needing to use it was lost on no one.  This historic site, after all, was created to honor the place where, in 1848, an estimated 300 people came together to sign a controversial document declaring women needed more equality; almost 170 years later our government was restricting where a small bunch of women could read their words.  The concern stemmed from a futuristic character in a sci-fi story stating that a self-admitted sexual predator had been elected.

In spite of any personal pangs about what felt unfair about this, especially against the backdrop of #metoo, it still didn’t take long to see how this was a gift.  The whole reading took on a new parallel with history, much like the structure of our Anthology. 

We started the readings in the Wesleyan Chapel – the site where women and men signed the Declaration of Sentiments on a hot day in July 1848.  (If you’ve never been in that building, it is humbling – especially if you go in on a quiet day, alone, and let the energy wash over you.)  Nancy Dafoe’s essay and Jen Cremerius’ poem hearkened to that time and described facets of history beautifully.  The poems by Katharyn Howd Machan, Laura Lusk, and Sarah Jefferis all displayed more modern snippets of feminine experience and what we take from ancestors to become strong women ourselves.  As their pieces led us forward through time, we drifted outside to the First Amendment Area, where Yael Saar would read her sci-fi-short story, and I would present my poem intended to give a little hope for the future.  That same area is where about 10,000 people had participated in the 2017 Women’s March, symbolically tying into that piece of history, too.

It was a 40-degree day, spitting rain on the verge of snowing, but I thought of the women in their layers of dresses and petticoats who gathered inside for two sweltering days in 1848.  They were tough.  We could withstand a few minutes of cold.  Our park ranger guide for the day sympathetically pointed out that once we held our “first amendment activities” in that area nothing prohibited us from gathering to continue the discussion inside the chapel away from the podium, and that is precisely what we did.   As with the other readings, it was the first time many of the writers had met one another; for me, that is always the best part.  Seeing these sparks of connections and sharing in a few moments of commonality, that brief bond with one another and maybe something more significant,  is heartwarming every time.

Afterward, I got some quality time with my niece who brought a friend down from Rochester for the reading and touring the museum with them also gave me hope.  There are so many examples of overcoming hardship are in that gallery, and evidence that there is more to be done.  I’m proud of the women who worked on this project.

– Stacey Murphy


P.S., 1.16.2018

It has taken me two months since that reading to get my head around exactly what I wanted to say about it.  As mentioned above the irony of the situation that day was not lost on anyone.  I have to admit, as the actions and words of this president become ever viler and inciting of hatred, there is a piece of me that is happy there is still, in fact, a reminder of protocol for free speech.  Whether one stands in this place, or that, it is still possible to speak out, that guidelines for safety and protection are included in those protocols, regardless of how it feels in my specific instance in the moment.  Even if our current country’s leadership is sorely lacking in it right now, we can still declare our own sentiments with dignity and class.  We can still hold space for decency’s return, and in doing so, demonstrate that we expect much, much better from our leaders. –S.M

Moving History Forward on Election Night

When you hold a reading from a new book, it should be disappointing if people don’t come.  But sometimes the unexpected is far sweeter, and that is what we experienced on election night 2017.

Four contributors to the Anthology were scheduled to read at the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center in Fayetteville NY.  The Center is the historic home of Gage, who, as Wikipedia puts it, was a “19th-century women’s suffragist, a Native American rights activist, an abolitionist, a freethinker, and a prolific author”.   Though not as famous – she was considered very radical – Gage collaborated with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Her home was the perfect site for a reading, but as Sarah Jefferis, Marguerite Kearns and I pulled up 10 minutes before the start time on that blustery night, the Center was dark.  Volunteer Kathy Bishop was there to meet us and to let us know that our hostess, Sally Wagner, was on her way – she had stopped to vote after teaching her Tuesday night class.

We followed Kathy into the building, though darkened rooms full of exhibits, all of us searching for light switches.  Sarah and Kathy said it felt like spirits were watching us, but I was distracted by worry: Marguerite was visiting from Santa Fe.  She had graciously looped this reading into her visit to New York, planning to stay overnight in Syracuse, and I hated the thought of it being a wasted effort.

Sally arrived.  It was clear it would be us five, but that soon became more than OK.  Kathy gave us a tour of the main floor, the suffrage room, the Haudenosaunee room, and the Wizard of Oz room!  It turns out that Gage’s daughter had married Frank Baum, and they, too had lived in this house.

Sally presented us with two choices of tea in delicate antique pots and a lovely assortment of cookies waited for us on the Victorian dining table.  We settled down in a circle of chairs to read our pieces to each other, and just to talk, and it was fabulous!  We got to share stories and learn more about each other’s lives in a way we never would have it had been an ordinary reading.  Marguerite told us of her ancestors’ contributions to the suffrage movement.  The Spirit of 1776 Wagon, which had lived in her grandfather’s barn when she was a child, is now on display in the New York State Museum in Albany, something she had worked toward for a long time.  While reading her contribution, Sally stopped at one point to share exciting news of her plans.  The 2020 national commemoration of women’s suffrage is still coming and there is still so much more in store.  Sarah read two of her poems in her strong, clear voice and I read mine, then Kathy, also a writer, told us a vivid story of a time she had stood up for feminist principles in the course of her life and made a difference.   As the conversation ranged, we made and felt connections.  I could hear bits of myself in the memories they shared.

I looked around and let it sink in:  here we were, 100 years after women fought for and gained the right to vote, talking about progress, and plans and pledges, as Sally put it when we toasted with our teacups, to “kick ass harder”.  Matilda Joslyn Gage was definitely listening.

Sarah and I bundled into the car to drive back to Ithaca, feeling like we had just spent the night with three badass aunties we never knew we had!  Driving home under stars made brighter with cold air and hope, we were inspired and nurtured.

When people ask I like to tell them how one rewarding aspect of this Anthology process, was inspiring women to use their voices and tell their stories.  This very special election night it became clear that we need to continue to do that for one another, each of us, with our own stories.