The Biennial Seneca Falls Dialogues is 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 Dialogues are a collaborative effort sponsored by the Women’s Institute for Learning and Leadership (WILL) to reinvigorate Seneca Falls as a site of feminist activism and intellectual exchange. The other organizations that contribute to the Dialogues are 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. See information on all previous dialogues here.

The Biennial Seneca Falls Dialogues Goals

Established in 2008, Revised in 2018


  • Build and maintain awareness of the complexity of the Seneca Falls legacy in part by seeking diverse and intersectional collaboration at all levels.
  • Build and maintain a network of college and university programs and departments to research and discuss historical and contemporary feminist issues.
  • Build and maintain a network of community members, artists, entrepreneurs, students, educators, and activists to research and discuss historical to contemporary feminist issues.


  • Establish an ongoing planning group from the above networks to coordinate the Seneca Falls Dialogues biennial event.
  • Encourage new, emerging, and established voices to attend and participate in the event.
  • Highlight the work of individuals, groups, and historic sites rooted in the ongoing legacy of Seneca Falls.


  • Build and maintain a record of work presented at the Biennial Dialogues and house it both digitally and in Seneca Falls.

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.”

Previous 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:

2018: Race and Intersecting Feminist Futures, featuring direct-action organizer KaeLyn Rich

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