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President's Message - July 2023

Finally a headstone for Crystal Eastman!


On Sunday, July 23, Mimi Gridley, my husband Steve and I traveled north to Canandaigua to take part in a dedication of a new headstone marking the legacy of Catherine Crystal Eastman. She is known to many Elmirans (you can find the historic marker on the Gray Street side of our building) because she spent her high school years living in the church with her parents, the Reverends Samuel and Annis Ford Eastman. She went on to become a powerful force for worker safety as a lawyer and activist. A new biography of her life: Crystal Eastman: A Revolutionary Life, was published in 2020 by author Amy Aronson. Eastman descendants set out to correct the absence of a headstone to identify this American hero.


About twenty-five people gathered on a bright and sunny day to dedicate a headstone for this social justice activist. Mimi Gridley spoke about Cherith - the Eastman family cottage on Seneca Lake, Steve played his bagpipes, and I gave a greeting from The Park Church. In my brief history lesson, I drew a direct line from Crystal’s parents’ advocacy for women’s suffrage and education to their daughter’s accomplishments. And I was able to fill in a little context about the Eastman’s legacy at Park. I often find that I remark about the Langdons and the Beechers and forget to include the Eastmans. I am grateful for this opportunity to go back to the archives to research a little more about this early 20th century portion of our leadership story.


Here is what I said to close my remarks: “Crystal, her brother Max, and the entire congregation were able to witness a truly equal marriage and shared ministry without rancor or jealously. The Eastmans brought to the congregation an example of Christian principles lived out into their daily experience. If we are very lucky, we too may be offered a glimpse or two in our own lives of people who make both love and service crystal clear. The Langdons, the Beechers and the Eastmans together charted a lofty course for The Park Church to sail, and thankfully we came through the pandemic stronger than ever. We remain dedicated to being “a seven-day-a week church community offering practical Christianity to all the citizens of Elmira” as we were chartered to do in 1846.


Cheers to the memory of Catherine Crystal Eastman!

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