The Genesee Wesleyan Seminary was established in 1832 and was among the first co-educational schools in the nation, operating until 1941. Genesee College, a liberal arts school, was also founded on the same site in 1850 and eventually relocated and became Syracuse University. Elim purchased the campus in 1951 and today the sprawling 75-acre campus prepares students for revival ministry worldwide.
Among the distinguished women associated with the college are Frances Willard, the founder of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and suffragist and attorney Belva Lockwood, the first female candidate for president of the United States.
Frances Willard (1839-1898)
Frances Willard was one of the most prominent women of her time. Her vision encompassed raising the age of consent, labor reforms such as the eight-hour workday, prison reform, scientific temperance instruction, Christian socialism, and the global expansion of women’s rights, just to name a few.
Frances was born in nearby Churchville, Monroe County. In 1858, at age 18, she moved to Illinois to attend North Western Female College. After graduation she taught in one-room schools and then more prestigious positions in secondary schools in Pennsylvania and New York. She later moved to Livingston County to teach at the Genesee Wesleyan Seminary in Lima where she worked as preceptress from 1866-67.
In 1871, Willard became president of the newly formed Evanston College for Ladies. When this college merged with Northwestern University, Willard became the first Dean of Women of the Women’s College. In 1874, she help to start the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and was elected the first corresponding secretary.
Willard worked hard to broaden the WCTU’s reform movement and in 1879 she was elected president of the organization, remaining at its head until her death in 1898. Her “Do Everything” slogan for the WCTU encouraged its membership to engage in social reform through lobbying, petitioning, preaching, publishing, and education.
Under Willard’s leadership, the WCTU grew to be the largest organization of women in the 19th century, with membership of 150,000, exalting Willard to the status as the most famous woman in the world. In 1905, this remarkable woman achieved what no other woman in our county could have imagined at the time: the first statue ever honoring a woman was placed in the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington, D.C.
Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood (1830-1917)
Belva Ann Lockwood entered Genesee College in 1853 and graduated with honors in 1857. She was immediately elected preceptress of Lockport Union School, incorporated as an academy with six hundred students. She later became preceptress of Gainesville Female Seminary and proprietor of McNall Seminary in Oswego. She eventually moved to Washington, D.C. and married Ezekiel Lockwood. After the death of their young daughter and then her husband, she decided to study law.
In 1873, she graduated from the National University Law School in Washington, D.C. Lockwood then fought spiritedly to be admitted to the bar, and after a long battle, won the right. In 1879, Lockwood was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court, becoming the first woman to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court. Although she had a large and paying practice, she chose to focus her energies on claims against the government.
In 1884, Lockwood accepted the nomination of the National Equal Rights Party to run for president. Despite dismal polling, she ran again on the same party line in 1888. Historians disagree as to whether Belva Lockwood was indeed the first woman or the second, after Victoria Woodhull, who ran in 1872, but was under the legal age of 35 to be president. Most often, however, Lockwood gets the credit.
Belva Lockwood worked tirelessly for woman suffrage, temperance, property law reforms, labor reform, and equal pay for equal work. She represented the Universal Peace Union at the Paris Exposition in 1889 and served as the U.S. delegate to the International Congress of Peace and to advocate in this capacity for many years.
In addition to being active in the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the Equal Rights Party, Lockwood participated in the National Women's Press Association. The organization for women journalists also advocated for equal rights for women.