In this feature, we continue the Freethought Trail’s celebration of the centenary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which established women’s right to vote.
We present more of the new, site-specific pages devoted to annual suffrage conventions held in west-central New York State, the Trail’s territory. Nearly forty such pages will “go live” on freethought-trail.org during 2020.
We also present some of the seventeen sites in west-central New York (yes, we found three more) where nineteenth-century orator Robert Green Ingersoll delivered a lecture.
Suffrage Convention Sites
The New York State Woman Suffrage Association (NYSWSA) held fifty-two annual conventions between 1869 and 1920; seventeen took place between 1890 and 1914 in west-central New York. These state-level conventions were truly national affairs. In this issue, we preview upcoming Freethought Trail coverage of NYSWSA’s conventions in Rochester (1890) and Auburn (1904), as well as a related convention in Churchville (1905).
NYSWSA’s twenty-second annual convention was held in Rochester on Tuesday to Thursday, December 16–18, 1890. Plenary sessions were held at the old First Universalist Church. Speakers included Susan B. Anthony, physician/minister/suffrage campaigner Anna Howard Shaw, nationally prominent suffragist Lillie Devereux Blake, and NYSWSA president Jean Brooks Greenleaf. Other venues included the Whitcomb House hotel, where executive board meetings were held, and the Rochester Chamber of Commerce office, site of an evening reception.
The thirty-sixth annual convention of NYSWSA was held in Auburn on Tuesday to Thursday, October 17–20, 1904. Speakers included Susan B. Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw, and local suffrage activist Eliza Wright Osborne, widow of Auburn business leader David Munson Osborne and a top leading donor to the suffrage movement. Plenary sessions were held at Music Hall. The Osborne House hotel was convention headquarters with business meetings being held at the Osborne Annex. Ms. Osborne hosted a reception at her home.
On Tuesday, May 2, 1905, the Monroe County Political Equality Club (a local affiliate of NYSWSA; Rochester is the county seat of Monroe County) held a convention whose speaker list might have better suited a statewide convention. Susan B. Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw, NYSWSA president Jean Brooks Greenleaf, and Syracuse activist Harriet May Mills headlined the gathering at Union Congregational Church in rural Churchville.
The village is not named for any house of worship. Rather, it is named for Samuel Church, proprietor of an early sawmill and grist mill.
Ingersoll Lecture Sites
Reactivation of the online Ingersoll Chronology (chronology.secularhumanism.org/) made it possible to identify every venue in the region at which Ingersoll is known to have spoken.
Syracuse/Wieting Opera House
Robert Green Ingersoll delivered five lectures here. On November 13, 1877, he gave his popular political lecture “The Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child.” The others were controversial lectures on religion: “Ghosts” on February 22, 1878; “What Must We Do to Be Saved?” on December 13, 1880; “The Foundations of Faith” on February 25, 1896; and “Why I Am an Agnostic” on January 4, 1898.