This trail extends from Rochester on the west to Fayetteville on the east. Unmarked sites are omitted; all sites on this list include a gravestone, a historical marker, a historic structure, or a museum. Visitors seeking a shorter curated experience might wish to visit the Rochester-area sites in one outing, Penn Yan, Geneva, Seneca Falls, and Sherwood in a second journey, and the Fayetteville sites as a third. The Matilda Joslyn Gage Center in Fayetteville is especially rich and will reward a longer visit.
The deep overlaps between nineteenth century woman’s rights and suffrage activism and the freethought movement should surprise no one. After all, the traditional Christian churches of that time were the most ferocious defenders of two ancient certainties: (1) women were inferior because God had made them that way, and (2) male domination over women was simply part of God’s plan. And did we mention that God is male?
Suffrage was a profoundly radical movement that sought to upend one of Western society’s most deeply rooted traditions: the systematic disenfranchisement of one half of the human race. No wonder freethinkers were so easily found within its ranks. For example, the three top-ranking leaders of the nineteenth century woman’s rights and suffrage movements were a moderately outspoken freethinker (Elizabeth Cady Stanton) ... an outrageously outspoken freethinker (Matilda Joslyn Gage) ... and Susan B. Anthony. Anthony was the "traditionalist" of this group, but even she was a radical religious liberal (first a Quaker, later a Unitarian). Even so, at the height of her power over the suffrage movement, Anthony would make overtures to religious conservative groups, believing such alliances necessary to win women the vote.
There were other influences, too, including the hugely popular children’s books of L. Frank Baum, who had married the youngest daughter of Matilda Joslyn Gage and spent years absorbing Gage’s freethinking and feminist ideas. In Baum’s land of Oz, women are men’s equals, religion is all but absent, and free individuals work out their differences with little involvement by the state. Also, central New York women including Anthony, Stanton, and Elizabeth Smith Miller played significant parts in suffragists’ experiment with dress reform, which produced the famous Bloomer costume.
Side note: Woman’s rights (singular) is correct when discussing feminist and suffrage-related activism during the nineteenth century. The more familiar women’s rights (plural) became the more common usage during the twentieth century, following most of the events focused on along the Freethought Trail.