In late July 1878, the Rochester Unitarian Church hosted a convention to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Seneca Falls convention. It was officially a national convention of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), the more radical of two competing suffrage organizations. (Nineteenth-century practice was to use the singular, woman's when referring to women as a class; later practice was to use the plural, women's.) The event focused on reminiscences, especially those of Seneca Falls co-organizer Lucretia Mott, then eighty-six years of age. Congratulatory letters were read from former opponents, including abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and New England woman's rights campaigner Lucy Stone. Among those attending were NSWA officer Matilda Joslyn Gage, suffrage superstar Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Rochester abolitionist and suffragist Amy Post, Geneva woman's rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller (the daughter of Gerrit Smith), and Frederick Douglass.
Gage followed Mott at the rostrum, introducing a series of resolutions, including three she had written herself:
“Resolved, That as the duty of every individual is self-development, the lessons in self-sacrifice and obedience taught women by the Christian church have been fatal, not only to her own highest interests, but through her have also dwarfed and degraded the race.
“Resolved, That the fundamental principle of the Protestant reformation, the right of individual conscience and judgment in the interpretation of scripture, heretofore conceded to and exercised by man alone, should now be claimed by woman, and in her most vital interest she should no longer trust authority, but be guided by her own reason.
“Resolved, That it is through the perversion of the religious element in woman, cultivating the emotions at the expense of her reason, playing upon her hopes and fears of the future, holding this life with all its high duties forever in abeyance to that which is to come, that she, and the children she has trained, have been so completely subjugated by priestcraft and superstition."
The resolutions, including Gage's fiery trio, apparently passed without significant debate. But after the convention, members of both national suffrage organizations objected to the "antireligious nature" of the resolutions Gage had penned. The New York World excoriated them as an "illustration of the evil tendencies of the Woman’s Rights movement."