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 coverage area. Nearly forty such pages will have “gone live” on freethought-trail.org by August 26, the hundredth anniversary of woman’s suffrage.
We also present two more of the seventeen sites in west-central New York where superstar orator Robert Green Ingersoll delivered one of his famous lectures.
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. In this issue, we preview upcoming Freethought Trail coverage of NYSWSA’s conventions in Ithaca (1894, 1911), Rochester (1896), and Geneva (1907).
NYSWSA’s twenty-sixth annual convention was held in Ithaca on Monday through Friday, November 12–16, 1894. Plenary sessions were held at the Lyceum Opera House and Library Hall. Convention headquarters was the Clinton House hotel. Speakers included Susan B. Anthony, physician/minister/suffrage campaigner Anna Howard Shaw, liberal minister Annis Ford Eastman, and regional activist Jean Brooks Greenleaf.
The forty-third annual NYSWSA convention unfolded in Ithaca on Tuesday through Friday, October 31–November 3, 1911. Speakers included Susan B. Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw, and regional activists Harriet May Mills, Emily Howland, Ella Hawley Crossett, and Eliza Wright Osborne. All public sessions occurred at First Baptist Church. The Ithaca Hotel served as convention headquarters. A reception was held at the home of local suffrage leader Juanita Breckinridge Bates. Thanks to Patricia Longoria, Carol Kammen, Elaine Engst, and Timothy Binga for research assistance.
The twenty-eighth annual NYSWSA convention was held in Rochester on Tuesday through Thursday, November 17–19, 1896. Speakers included Susan B. Anthony, Lillie Devereux Blake, and Rochester activist Jean Brooks Greenleaf. That conference year would be her final one as NYSWSA president. Plenary sessions were held in Music Hall; the Whitcomb House hotel served as headquarters, as it had in 1890. The Livingston Hotel held a banquet in honor of Susan B. Anthony.
The thirty-ninth annual NYSWSA convention was held in Geneva on Tuesday through Friday, October 15–18, 1907. Speakers included Susan B. Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw, and Harriet May Mills. Plenary sessions were held at the First Baptist Church; the Hotel Nester served as headquarters, as it had during NYSWSA’s previous Geneva convention ten years prior. Regional suffragist Elizabeth Smith Miller hosted a reception at her mansion, Lochland.
Ingersoll Spoke Here
Ingersoll lectured twice at the Elmira Opera House. On February 25, 1878, he delivered the popular political lecture “The Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child.” On April 23, 1895, he delivered the hard-hitting freethought lecture “About the Holy Bible.”
On February 26, 1885, Ingersoll delivered his freethought lecture “Orthodoxy” at the Breese Opera House in Norwich, the seat of Chenango County. Thanks to Joan Lieb of the Chenango County Historian’s Office for research assistance.