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New home of National Women’s Hall of Fame has own women’s history

It may be the best possible location for the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

A place honoring 276 American women of achievement will move into a renovated space that once housed the Seneca Knitting Mill, a local industry that employed hundreds of women, many of them immigrants or daughters of immigrants, during its 155-year history.

In addition, two of the founders of the textile mill on the south bank of the Seneca River, which is now known as the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, attended the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls in July 1848. Jacob Chamberlain and Charles Hoskins not only attended the convention, but signed the Declaration of Sentiments on women’s rights that was adopted at the convention, sparking the modern women’s rights movement in America.

The female mill workers worked long and hard, doing physically demanding and often tedious piecework to earn their money. They also forged many friendships that endure to this day, 20 years after the mill closed.

Betty Bayer, professor of women’s studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, was president of the Hall of Fame board from 2015 until early this year. She helped spearhead the campaign to convert the former knitting mill into the new home of the Hall of Fame, which has outgrown its current space at 76 Fall St.

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