An avant-garde religious climate helped
WNY women cut their teeth on social causes like temperance and abolition, then
move on to their cause célèbre-the women's rights movement.
a locale as improbable as a Hollywood movie set, the main scenes of this drama
were played out in Seneca Falls, a small Erie Canal port and textile mill town
in predominantly agricultural Seneca County. A century later this prototypical
small town was thought to be the model for Bedford Falls in the Frank Capra classic,
"It's a Wonderful Life."
It was here that Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
a curious blend of housewife and radical thinker, spearheaded plans for the 1st
Woman's Rights Convention in 1848. "The trouble was not in what I said, but
that I said it too soon, and before the people were ready to hear it," she
Two of her closest allies in the battle were Rochesterians
Susan B. Anthony and Fredrick Douglass, an abolitionist
leader and former slave. Anthony later went to jail for illegally attempting to
vote. It took over 70 years until women's suffrage finally became the law of the
land with the adoption of the 19th amendment in 1920.
Another famous Genesee
Country woman, Civil War nurse Clara Barton, founded
the American Red Cross.
the Underground Railroad
Western New York had always been a mecca for escaped
slaves, due to its proximity to Canada. After passage of the Fugutive Slave Law
in 1850, runaway slaves booked passage on the Underground Railroad, which had
three main routes running through Western New York.
Along the way fugitive
slaves were assisted by local abolitionists, who hid them, fed them and transported
them through the region and on to freedom in Canada, despite the threat of fines
Some of the hiding places for fugitive slaves traveling
on the Underground Railroad were:
Main Street Reynolds Arcade, Rochester.
Once the hub of abolitionist activity.
Talman Building, Rochester. Site
of Frederick Douglass's newspaper office, where slaves would seek his assistance.
Sexton House and the Western Presbyterian Church, Palmyra, Wayne County.
County offers Underground Railroad tours, complete with hidden cellars and secret
passages. Call 716-282-1028