Rochester NOW Conference Celebrates 150 Years of Feminist History, Looks to the Future

by Leah Michaelson,

In 1848, 300 women and men met in Seneca Falls, N.Y., to set the course for the first wave of the women's rights movement in this country. One hundred and fifty years later, the 1998 National NOW Conference will convene in Rochester, N.Y., to honor the past, evaluate the present and envision the future.

"Ours will also be an historic conference, definitely not business as usual," NOW President Patricia Ireland said. "We are calling all NOW members to participate in charting the future of equality."

One of the inspirations for bringing the 1998 conference to Rochester July 10-12 is the multitude of events taking place there and in nearby Seneca Falls to commemorate the anniversary of the first Women's Rights Convention.

NOW will be sponsoring tours of the historic area, giving members the opportunity to experience the celebration.

Attractions include the National Women's Hall of Fame and the Women's Rights National Historical Park, where daily dramatizations of the Convention are planned, as well as hands-on workshops and interpretive talks, movies and exhibits. Conference participants will be able to tour the house where Susan B. Anthony lived, worked and was arrested for voting in the 1872 presidential election, located just two miles from the conference hotel. The Mt. Hope cemetery where Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass are buried is also nearby.

On top of the numerous art exhibits, museum tours, films and lectures, conference attendees can explore four state parks, tour local wineries, enjoy buggy rides and savor the company of thousands of feminists who will be coming to the area to celebrate the origins of the women's rights movement in the United States.

The Seneca Falls convention was the result of the collaboration of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a small group of Quaker and abolitionist women who were angered at the role of women in nineteenth century society. Based on the format and content of the Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of Sentiments adopted at the convention set forth their determination to make radical changes to improve women's lives. It helped set the direction of feminist organizing for the next 150 years.

"NOW activists will gather to create a new declaration of our dreams and hopes," Ireland said. "Our shared vision will bind us together, inspire and keep us going."

The visioning process will be the major focus of the annual conference. Conference delegates voting in Las Vegas at the 1996 national conference called for a vision summit in 1998. It culminates two years of discussion at the local, state and regional levels.

Watch for the next issue of the National NOW Times for more information on registration, lodging and tours. The NOW web site at will post details as they become available.

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