Between 1890 and 1914, the New York State Woman Suffrage Association (NYSWSA) held sixteen of its twenty-four annual conventions in west-central New York. This Curated Trail begins in Churchville, New York, and terminates in Hornell (formerly Hornellsville).
NYSWSA's preference during this period for smaller and midsize midstate communities over major population centers like New York City and Buffalo reflected the intense enthusiasm for suffrage activism found here, and also the fact that national suffrage leaders like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, hailed from the region. So did regionally prominent activists including Harriet May Mills, Elizabeth Smith Miller, and Eliza Wright Osborne.
A core element of NYSWSA strategy was to hold an annual convention in a different city each year. County societies would compete to host the next convention and draw strength from the experience of staging it. Conventions held in west-central New York State (the Freethought Trail's catchment area) included:
- Auburn in 1891 and 1904;
- Binghamton in 1913;
- Geneva in 1897 and 1907;
- Hornell in 1903;
- Ithaca in 1894 and 1911;
- Oswego in 1901;
- Rochester in 1890, 1896, 1905, and 1914;
- Syracuse in 1892 and 1906, and
- Utica in 1912.
- In addition, a 1905 meeting of the Monroe County Political Equality Club (a county-level NYSWSA affiliate) is included because it featured a speaker lineup comparable to some NYSWSA conventions.
From 1869 to 1874, conventions were held in high summer; after that, at Gage's suggestion, they were held in the autumn to take advantage of cooler weather.
Anthony, president of NYSWSA from 1876 until 1877, keynoted at the annual conventions when her national obligations permitted. Anthony anchored so many of these events, both during and after her presidency, that one sometimes wonders how she found time for anything else.
The Woman Suffrage Convention Trail. This trail begins in Churchville, then sweeps eastward, visiting Rochester, Geneva, Oswego, Syracuse, and Utica. It swings south and circles back through Binghamton, concluding at Hornell (formerly Hornellsville.) To follow this Trail is to recapture the energy of the nation's most active state-level suffrage organization as it campaigned toward the goal it would achieve in the year 1920 with the Nineteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.