Robert Green Ingersoll and the Reform Imperative

pictures of Ingersoll, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, Matilda Joslyn Gage

An appreciation of Ingersoll and the Freethought Trail

Amherst, Dresden, and Seneca Falls, New York

Saturday and Sunday, August 16-17, 2014

Registration Closed

A conference and tour featuring:
Susan Jacoby · Tom Flynn · Margaret Downey · Christopher Cameron · Melinda Grube · Lauren Becker · Roger Greeley · and more!

Keynote lecture by:
Sally Roesch Wagner

Join us for an immersive two-day conference and tour celebrating Robert Green Ingersoll and the rich reform legacy of west-central New York’s Freethought Trail!

First comes a full day of provocative lectures and presentations at the Center for Inquiry’s headquarters in Amherst, New York. Some speakers will focus on Ingersoll, his history, and his role in the life of America’s Gilded Age. Others will focus on reformers like antislavery firebrand Frederick Douglass and feminist freethinkers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage – all of whom knew Ingersoll, and lived and worked in west-central New York along what is now the Freethought Trail.

The next day, participants will head out bright and early in a luxury motor coach to tour the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum – with its all new T. M. Scruggs Museum Interior – followed by Seneca Falls, birthplace of the nineteenth-century women’s rights movement. While in transit, episodes of the Council for Secular Humanism’s new documentary miniseries American Freethought will be presented aboard the motor coach. It all ends with dinner at the lavish Belhurst Castle and Winery on a high bluff overlooking beautiful Seneca Lake.

Registration includes all ground transportation and five meals. Attendance is strictly limited – when the motor coach is full, registration will be closed. Register today!


(in order of appearance)

Ronald A. Lindsay

Ronald A. Lindsay is president and CEO of the Council for Secular Humanism and of its supporting organization, the Center for Inquiry. He is the author of Future Bioethics: Overcoming Taboos, Myths, and Dogmas (Prometheus 2008) and the entry on “Euthanasia” for the International Encyclopedia of Ethics (Wiley Blackwell 2013). His next book, The Necessity of Secularism: Why God Can’t Tell Us What To Do, will be published by Pitchstone Publishing, with a release date of November 2014.

Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn is director of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, co-creator and director of the Freethought Trail, editor of Free Inquiry magazine, and executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism. He is editor of The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief and (with Julia Lavarnway) the new anthology Religions Are for a Day: Robert Green Ingersoll Appreciated.

Melinda Grube

Melinda Grube is an adjunct lecturer in history at Cayuga Community College in Auburn, New York. A longtime interpreter of regional women’s-rights history, she frequently performs in costume as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, architect of the historic 1848 Woman’s Rights Conference at Seneca Falls.

Susan Jacoby

Susan Jacoby is an author, most recently of The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought. Jacoby has been a contributor to a wide variety of national publications, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The American Prospect, Mother Jones, The Nation, Glamour, and theAARP Bulletin and AARP Magazine. Her book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism was named a notable book of 2004 by the Washington Post and the New York Times. Her The Age of Unreason became a New York Times best seller.

Christopher Cameron

Christopher Cameron is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in American History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a B.A. in History from Keene State College. His research and teaching interests include early American history, the history of slavery and abolition, and American religious and intellectual history. Cameron’s first book, To Plead Our Own Cause: African Americans in Massachusetts and the Making of the Antislavery Movement, was published by Kent State University Press in June 2014, and he is currently working on two monographs: one exploring liberal religion and slavery in America, and the other examining African American freethinkers from the 19th century to the present.

Cody Hashman

Cody Hashman is a Field Organizer for the Center for Inquiry, where he works with campus and community groups. He established one of the most active student freethought organizations in the world, the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers & Inquirers (UNIFI), during his undergraduate career at the University of Northern Iowa, where he studied psychology and statistics. Ingersoll's essay "The Gods" was the first formal piece of freethought literature that he ever read.

Lauren Becker

Lauren Becker is Director of Marketing at the Center for Inquiry and its former Vice President for Outreach. In addition, she is Associate Director of the Council for Secular Humanism, Associate Editor of Free Inquiry magazine, and co-host of the Center for Inquiry podcast CenterStage. A science and nature interpreter, she has taught at museums, parks, and planetariums around the country.

Margaret Downey

Margaret Downey founded the Freethought Society, the Anti-Discrimination Support Network, and the Thomas Paine Memorial Committee. She has been published in three books, Parenting Beyond Belief, A Better Life and Voices of Disbelief. She served as president of the Atheist Alliance International for two years. She is a past board member of the American Humanist Association, the Humanist Institute, and the Thomas Paine National Historical Association. She is a current board member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation and Scouting for All and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum.

Roger Greeley

Roger Greeley is the volunteer chair of the Robert Green Ingersoll Memorial Committee. A former Unitarian-Universalist minister, for many years Greeley delighted U-U and humanist audiences with a two-man show in which he portrayed Ingersoll in high style. He edited the classic 1977 anthology The Best of Robert Ingersoll: Immortal Infidel. In 2000 he discovered and orchestrated the restoration of the 560-pound bust of Ingersoll sculpted for the long-demolished Beckwith Theater in Dowagiac, Michigan; in 2001 he dedicated the bust, which has anchored the Birthplace Museum’s displays ever since. Roger Greeley is unable to attend in person, but will deliver his remarks via video.

Sally Roesch Wagner

Sally Roesch Wagner is the Founding Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, which in 2010 opened Gage’s Fayetteville, New York, home to the public as an innovative museum. She is the nation’s foremost authority on Matilda Joslyn Gage and the co-founder of the Freethought Trail. She received the Katherine Coffey Award from the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums for outstanding service to museology in 2012. One of the first women to receive a doctorate for work in women’s studies in the United States (UC Santa Cruz, 1978), she is also a founder of one of the country’s first women’s studies programs at California State University, Sacramento (1970). A women’s studies faculty member for 44 years, Wagner is currently adjunct faculty in the Honors Program at Syracuse University. Dr. Wagner’s lecture is sponsored by the New York Council for the Humanities Speakers in the Humanities Program.

New York Council for the Humanities

Speakers in the Humanities


Saturday, August 16
The Center for Inquiry – Transnational, Amherst, New York

8:30 AM   Continental breakfast (included in registration) · Welcome

9:00 AM   Opening remarks by Ronald A. Lindsay
President and CEO of the Council for Secular Humanism and the Center for Inquiry

9:15 AM   Presentation by Tom Flynn
On the historical milieu of Ingersoll, Douglass, Stanton, and Gage, the Ingersoll Museum, and the Freethought Trail

10:00 AM   Lecture by historian Melinda Grube
Delivered in costume and (at least in part) in character as Elizabeth Cady Stanton

11:00 AM   Break

11:15 AM   Lecture by Susan Jacoby: “Where Are You, Robert Ingersoll, Now That We Need You Again?”
Award-winning author of Freethinkers and The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought

12:15 PM   Luncheon (included in registration)

1:15 PM   Lecture by historian Christopher Cameron
On Frederick Douglass as antislavery campaigner, feminist, and freethinker

2:15 PM   Presentation by Cody Hashman
CFI Outreach staffer and former student activist, on what Ingersoll has to offer secular young people

2:45 PM   Break

3:00 PM   Presentation by Lauren Becker
“The Trouble with Ingersoll: Guilt by Association in a Revolutionary World” places Ingersoll in context in the turbulent intellectual/religious milieu of the Victorian age

3:45 PM   Presentation by Margaret Downey
“Taking the Freethought Trail on the Road” – on presenting the Freethought Trail to far-flung audiences

4:30 PM   Lecture by Roger Greeley: “Can Ingersoll Be Resurrected?”
Reflections by the chair of the Robert G. Ingersoll Memorial Committee, longtime performer as Ingersoll, and rescuer of the Beckwith Theater Ingersoll bust

5:00 PM   Break

5:45 PM   Banquet (included in registration)
Awards to Susan Jacoby, Sally Roesch Wagner, Roger Greeley, Jeff Ingersoll, Sandra Parker, and Steve Lowe

7:30 PM   Center for Inquiry Lecture by Sally Roesch Wagner
“Matilda Joslyn Gage: Bringing Her Into History.”

Although she was considered equally important as woman’s rights giants Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (the three were called the "triumvirate of the movement"), freethinker Matilda Joslyn Gage (1828 - 1898) has been all but written out of history. Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner, the foremost authority on Gage, enlightens about this amazing woman "lost from history," who offered her Fayetteville, New York home as a station on the Underground Railroad; was adopted into the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk Nation; edited a newspaper; encouraged her son-in-law, L. Frank Baum, to write his Oz stories; campaigned for freethought; and worked for the separation of church and state.

This keynote lecture is also offered free to the public. Sponsored by the New York Council for the Humanities Speakers in the Humanities Program.

Sunday, August 17
On the Freethought Trail

7:45 AM   Depart from Doubletree Hotel, 10 Flint Road, Amherst, New York
Travel to Ingersoll Museum. An episode of American Freethought, the Council for Secular Humanism’s new documentary miniseries, will be screened over the motor coach’s entertainment system.

10:00 AM   Visit Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum
For 2014, the Museum interior has been wholly redesigned. Explore the new T. M. Scruggs Museum Interior. Purchase two of everything in the Museum gift shop. Relax with a cold beverage in the backyard tent.

12:00 PM   Luncheon and Wine Tasting (included in registration)
Dresden Hotel (just up the street). New owners have relaunched the venerable restaurant as a fine-dining venue. Luncheon includes wine pairing and a tasting presented by a local Finger Lakes winery.

1:45 PM   Depart from Dresden Hotel
Travel to Seneca Falls, New York.

2:45 PM   Tour the restored Wesleyan Chapel
Site of the first Woman’s Rights Convention in 1848.

3:30 PM   Tour the restored home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton

4:15 PM   Tour the Visitors Center and Museum at the Women’s Rights National Historic Park

5:00 PM   Depart from Seneca Falls
Travel to the Belhurst Castle in Geneva, New York

5:45 PM   Dinner at the Belhurst Castle (included in registration)
This luxurious hotel/restaurant/winery occupies a breathtaking Gilded Age mansion on a bluff high above beautiful Seneca Lake.

7:30 PM   Depart from Belhurst Castle
Return to Doubletree Hotel. An episode of American Freethought, the Council for Secular Humanism’s new documentary miniseries, will be screened over the motor coach’s entertainment system.

9:45 PM   Arrival at Doubletree Hotel

Building: Ingersoll birthplace museumThe Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, Dresden, New York.


Registration is $165.00. Includes all lecture and presentation events, shuttle and motor coach transportation, and five meals.

Registration Closed


Building: the Center for Inquiry The Center for Inquiry–Transnational, Amherst, New York, will host the conference’s lecture sessions.

Getting to the Conference

The Center for Inquiry – Transnational is in Amherst, New York, a suburb of Buffalo, New York. If arriving by air, fly into Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF; served by many major carriers). Attendees staying at the conference hotel (see below) may take the Doubletree’s own free shuttle from the airport to the hotel. Because of the conference schedule, we recommend that attendees arriving by air plan to arrive on Friday, August 15, and to depart on Monday, August 18). If arriving by car, the Center for Inquiry is located at 1310 Sweet Home Road, Amherst, New York, Amherst NY, 14228. From Interstate 290, take Interstate 990 to the very first exit, Exit 1 (State University). Follow the ramp, which becomes Audubon Parkway. At the first light (Rensch Road), turn right. At the next light (Sweet Home Road), turn left. The Center for Inquiry is on your right in about 1000 feet, just after the low-rise student residence park.

Note that on Sunday, the tour motor coach will leave from and return to the Doubletree Hotel, not the Center for Inquiry – Transnational.

Getting a Room Deal

Conference attendees can obtain a special discount rate of $107 per night at the Doubletree Hotel, 10 Flint Road, Amherst, New York. The Doubletree is a full-service hotel located just one mile from the Center for Inquiry – Transnational. Because of the conference schedule, we recommend that attendees plan to stay in the hotel on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights (3 nights, checking out Monday, August 18). To book a room at the conference rate, telephone the hotel directly at 716-689-4414 and mention “Ingersoll conference.” (Sorry, online registration at the conference rate is not available.)

Getting Around

It’s simple: we’ve taken care of everything! As noted, attendees arriving by air and staying at the Doubletree can take the hotel’s free airport shuttle. Complimentary shuttle vans will run between the hotel and the Center morning and evening and whenever needed on Saturday, August 16. Sunday, the luxury motor coach will take you everywhere you need to go and bring you back to the Doubletree Hotel.