The National Women’s Hall of Fame, one of the first national organizations dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the achievements of great American women, was founded in 1969 in historic Seneca Falls, New York, the birthplace of the American women’s rights movement. Here, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and 300 others gathered at the first American women’s rights convention in 1848. The Declaration of Sentiments was presented, debated, and passed by the convention, which included, among other demands, that women have the right to vote. The struggle for American women’s rights had officially begun in Seneca Falls, New York.
The National Women’s Hall of Fame moved from its old location at 76 Fall St, a historic bank building in the heart of the Seneca Falls Historic District, to the Seneca Knitting Mill in 2020. Before the move, the Seneca Knitting Mill operated continuously for 155 years from 1844 to 1999. During that time, the mill became intertwined with the women’s suffrage and abolitionist movements. Two of the building’s original trustees, Jacob Chamberlain and Charles Hoskins, were supporters of women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery. Both attended the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls in July 1848 and were among the 32 men who signed the Declaration of Sentiments produced there.
Located at the heart of New York State’s Women’s Heritage Trail, the Hall of Fame’s new location is a keystone in the national network of 21st-century facilities highlighting the rights, roles, accomplishments, contributions, and value of American women.
The organization benefits Seneca Falls and the surrounding region in a variety of ways. In particular, in support of the local and regional economy, the National Women’s Hall of Fame took care to ensure that all design, engineering, and construction contracts were let to companies within a two-hour radius of the Mill.
The Hall of Fame’s operations and outreach offer creative and educational activities for children and adults including the National Women’s Hall of Fame Online Forum, which features events such as book clubs, panel discussions, workshops, and author Q&A sessions.
The rehabilitation of the historic Seneca Knitting Mill was sponsored by the National Women’s Hall of Fame. They now occupy the first floor of the main limestone building. Phase I included the restoration of the historic exterior of the mill, complete rehabilitation of the first floor, and installation of fire protection and safety features for the upper three floors. With Phase I complete, the first floor now houses exhibits and interactive displays, honoring the 287 women who have been inducted to date in the Hall of Fame since 1969. During the next phase, the Center for Impact and Inspiration and additional exhibits on women’s history in America will complete the upper three floors of the limestone building. Additionally, a gift shop, welcome area, café, outdoor “rooms”, and a rooftop patio will be added to the structure during the final phases.