The SF Dialogues’ Underlying Theme: Question Everything!

Every two years, the Women’s Institute for Leadership and Learning (WILL) Board of Directors hosts a conference called the Seneca Falls Dialogues. 

Intended to stir educational debate and foster in-depth conversations surrounding women’s rights, the forum harkens to a time when the Seneca Falls community was the very heart of social change that rocked the world — by insisting that women had a place within it.

We are assembled to protest against a form of government, existing without the consent of the governed…”
– Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1848

In 1848, Seneca Falls was the location of the first Women’s Rights Convention, initiated by a small group of five individuals – who had gathered not just to share their outrage at the treatment of women as lesser beings, but rather to ask the critical question, “What do we do about it?”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Mary McClintock, Martha Coffin Wright, and Jane Hunt shared a disdain for oppression and inhumane treatment of human beings, whether based on gender, race, or religion.  They questioned social injustices under a government that hailed itself a Democracy, promising “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – yet only ensuring that privilege to some.

They penned their grievances and scheduled a convention.  With forethought two centuries before its time, they invited influencers of their era, such as Frederick Douglass.  They issued resolutions calling for wrongs to be righted, including the shocking assertion that women be given the right to vote.

Visit for a great summary of the history and a list of excellent resources.

Near two centuries later, a small group of women gathers biennially in Seneca Falls.  Their goal, in the Stanton tradition, is to question everything.  As hosts of the Seneca Falls Dialogues, Adriene Emmo, Diana Smith, Marilyn Tedeschi, Becky Bly, and Dr. Betty Bayer honor the original Convention and invite groups together, choosing topics that often are characterized as “uncomfortable.”     Working closely with a group called the University Alliance, Women’s Studies professionals from 14+ academic institutions across the Northeast, programming coordinators for each Dialogue event must choose a theme from human rights issues that are too numerous, and continue to plague societies throughout the world.  They maintain this tragic reality is most notably ironic here, in the “more perfect union” of the United States. 

Please visit the history pages of this website and learn about past presenters and issues discussed during the Dialogues since the initial program in 2008.  You will also want to explore the Seneca Falls Dialogues Journal, a multidisciplinary, peer reviewed, online journal that features topics and presentations by students, inspired by – and part of  – the biennial Seneca Falls Dialogues.  The Seneca Falls Dialogues Journal is sponsored by Women and Gender Studies affiliates at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Monroe Community College, The College at Brockport State University of New York, St. John Fisher University, University of Rochester, SUNY Geneseo, Syracuse University, the Greater Rochester Area Branch of American Association of University Women, and the Women’s Institute for Leadership and Learning.

After reading about the Dialogues, perhaps you’ll be inspired to join in and register as a participant in the next Dialogues event.  Check here to learn more…