Slocum Howland was the patriarch of a Quaker family based in Sherwood, New York, that played key roles in reform movements including abolitionism and woman’s rights. (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.) He was also a very active conductor on the Underground Railroad, using his diverse resources (including a store, tenant houses, and a Cayuga Lake port facility) to help escaping slaves reach Canada or, if they preferred, make new homes in Cayuga County.
In 1837 he built a store in Sherwood that became an important station on the Underground Railroad and the heart of a Quaker hamlet active in liberal social causes. It operates today as a museum and educational center.