Women’s Interfaith Institute in the Finger Lakes

Women supporting women of diverse faiths...

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140 Fall Street, PO Box 131  •  Seneca Falls, New York 13148  •  (585) 319-9395  •  allisonstokes@earthlink.net

A Shared Mission

The Women’s Interfaith Institute was founded in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts in 1992, under the leadership of Dr. Allison Stokes.  For information, see www.womensinterfaithberkshires.org.

After Allison moved to New York, she organized the Institute’s Finger Lakes affiliate in 2002.  Although the two non-profit organizations are incorporated separately, we share a common mission.

Bricks and Mortar

In February 2003, the WII in the Finger Lakes purchased the historic church building located next door to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, dedicated at that site to preserve and protect the original Wesleyan Chapel where Elizabeth Cady Stanton led the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848.

In September 2012, the Institute held a celebration of its first decade of service, and launched a fundraising drive asking contributors for “$10 for 10 Years.”

The Institute offers something that is unique: space dedicated to bringing persons together across the religious, cultural, racial, and socio-economic boundaries that too often divide them.  But we have great challenges…

From Devastation to Dedication

On March 5, 2009, our historic building suffered a devastating fire - just days after renovations on the Great Hall were complete and plans were being made to celebrate.  Nine companies of firefighters saved the structure, but the water damage was extensive.

Our long-term goal is to restore our Great Hall to its former beauty - and more importantly, its usefulness as a space dedicated to interfaith education and programming.  

In the meanwhile, with the help of many, many dedicated volunteers, we have recovered the full use of the north section of the building, providing two meeting rooms, kitchen, office, and bathrooms.  This allows us to continue to offer programs.

About the Women’s Interfaith Institute: a Brief History

Once owned by the same Wesleyan congregation that permitted Elizabeth Cady Stanton to conduct her “controversial” meeting in their Chapel, the building that now is home to the Interfaith Institute is revealing its own history that is intertwined with the site of the original convention – located just next door.

This pulpit is believed to have moved with the Wesleyan congregation from its original location, making it likely that Stanton rested her hands - and her words - on this beautiful rosewood pedestal during the first Women’s Rights Convention.  It is a treasured heirloom that miraculously survived the 2009 fire with no damage.

The fire wreaked wholesale devastation - from roof to basement.  Undaunted, members and volunteers began immediately to remove debris and make room for repairs.

Our Mission and Vision

Our space and mission is dedicated to interfaith understanding, cooperation and action.

We are “women supporting women of diverse faiths in generating spiritual leadership, scholarship and service.

The tapestry pictured left, and being hung above, depicts Elizabeth Cady Stanton (on left) in Seneca Falls in July 1848 and Tahirih in Badasht, Persia, in June 1848. Three weeks and half a world apart, both leaders called for equal rights for women. Tahirih’s personal risk cost her her life.

This exquisite work of art, on display at the Institute, is described in Professor Farzaneh Milani’s book, Words Not Swords: Iranian Women Writers and the Freedom Movement (2011).