The Biennial Seneca Falls Dialogues are a kind of conference that, rather than featuring presentations of papers, invites presenters to lead structured dialogues aimed at fostering collaboration and insightful conversation among students, faculty, and activists. The SFD takes place once every two years in historic Seneca Falls, New York, as an effort to reinvigorate Seneca Falls as a site of feminist activism and intellectual exchange.
The SFD is sponsored by The Women’s Institute for Leadership and Learning (WILL) in collaboration with the College Alliance (Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Monroe Community College, The College at Brockport: State University of New York, St. John Fisher College, the University of Rochester), Friends of the Women’s Rights National Park, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the Town of Seneca Falls, and the Greater Rochester Area Branch of American Association of University Women.
The Biennial Seneca Falls Dialogues (SFD), in keeping with the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments and 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, seeks to present, preserve, and promote ongoing research and discussions of the day in order to realize and sustain equal rights for women. This collaborative effort upholds a time-honored upstate New York legacy where those who champion women’s rights find voice.
The Biennial Seneca Falls Dialogues Goals as established in 2008
- Build a network of college and university Women and Gender Studies programs and departments to research and discuss historical to contemporary women and gender studies issues.
- Build a record of work presented at the Biennial Dialogues and house it in Seneca Falls as a living history of the Sentiments of the Day. Where possible, include film and video as part of this archival work.
- Establish an ongoing intercollegiate participating group of colleges and universities to plan and implement the Seneca Falls Dialogues biennial event.
- Bring to focus the work of the women who have been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and expand their platform of work.
- Encourage new, emerging, and established voices to attend and participate in the Biennial Seneca Falls Dialogues to advance gender equity causes across person and place.
The First Seneca Falls Dialogues
In October of 2008, the Seneca Falls Heritage Group, the Friends of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and the Greater Rochester Branch of the American Association of University Women, together with an alliance of western New York colleges and universities, collaborated to form the First Biennial Seneca Falls Dialogues (SFD) to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the first women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York, and the 60th anniversary of Eleanor Roosevelt’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The two-day event brought together generations of women to discuss women’s rights, current trends in feminist scholarship and activism, and emerging leadership in today’s national and international human rights arena. One of the highlights of the 2008 event was the reading of a letter from then Senator Barack Obama in response to a question posed to presidential candidates, “How would your administration support women’s rights such as the ERA, CEDAW, and pay equity?” Other highlights of the 2008 Dialogues were a video greeting from Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights and former President of Ireland; Carolyn Hannon, Director, UN Division for the Advancement of Women; and Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney speaking on “The US Congress and the Women’s Rights Agenda.”
Chronicle of Biennial Seneca Falls Dialogues Themes and Keynotes
Chronicled below are past Seneca Falls Dialogues themes and keynote speakers. Reflective of our reach, in October 2015, we have published the inaugural The Seneca Falls Dialogues Journal, a multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed, online journal that grows out of the Biennial Seneca Falls Dialogues. More information about the Seneca Falls Dialogues Journal can be found at: http://digitalcommons.brockport.edu/sfd/.
2016: Lean Out: Gender, Economics, and Enterprise, featuring award-winning documentarian and photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally
2014: EcoFeminism: Cultivating Place and Identity, featuring keynote BLK ProjeK Founder and Eco-Warrior Tanya Fields
2012: Politics of Leadership and Civil Rights, featuring distinguished author and scholar Dr. Nancy Hewett and a brunch keynote address by Judy Richardson, Dorothy Zellner, and Betty Robinson from Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Account by Women in the SNCC.
2010: Call and Response: Crossing Feminist Borders, featuring distinguished author, activist, professor, and then president of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall
2008: Leadership, Learning & Celebrating Women’s Human Rights, featuring Congresswomen Carolyn B. Maloney