Nestled in the ancient forests surrounding Lake Cassadaga in eastern New York, the Lily Dale community feels like a guiding force for the world’s spiritists. Sometimes dubbed “The City That Talks to the Dead,” Lily Dale is considered by many to be the central location of the Spiritualist movement. Despite the fact that this fascinating place attracts thousands of visitors and devoted followers each year, it remains a mystery to most people. There are many questions about the history of the place and what it meant to the people who founded it. What is this place exactly? What did the Fox sisters have to do with it? How did a prominent political leader like Susan B. Anthony get involved? Read on to find the answers and make the connection between this spiritual community and an unlikely group of three young mediums and an outspoken advocate for women’s rights.
What is Lily Dale? Lily Dale is not a town or a city; rather, it is a small community that serves as a meeting place and educational center for those interested in the spiritualist movement. For the past 130 years, it has been a place of spiritual growth for followers from around the world who come together to learn more about their religion, discuss new ideas and concepts, and promote their own spiritual progress as they continue on the journey of the life. Founded in 1879 by local spiritists (although the grounds had been used for the same purpose for many years), Lily Dale served as a place where people could openly discuss their beliefs regarding the spirit world and life after death. During a time when non-Christians were often social outcasts, followers of spiritism needed a place where they could practice their religion without judgment. His belief system was (and still is) based on the ideas that death is only the end of the physical body and that the spirit continues on other planes of existence. Spirits of the dead can and do communicate with living people and are capable of providing valuable information about God and the spirit world.
How did the Fox sisters influence? The Fox sisters are commonly known as the founders of spiritism. These women were just girls in 1848 when they claimed to be receiving messages from the spirit world. After hearing strange banging sounds coming from inside their home, they realized that something, or someone, was trying to communicate with them. They came up with a code in which they would ask questions and the “thing” would respond with a series of blows. With this they learned that they were communicating with a murder victim who had been buried in the basement of their home. Word of the mysterious contact spread quickly, with believers and skeptics alike flocking to see for themselves. The girls quickly rose to fame, eventually traveling to New York and other parts of the country where they served as mediums between the living and the dead. All of this attention sparked a new popular movement, Spiritism, which focused on spiritual communication and understanding. The Fox girls played a vital role in establishing this new belief system, and are still recognized to this day for their involvement in its founding.
And Susan B. Anthony? Susan B. Anthony is best known as an active participant in the women’s rights movement, particularly when it comes to women’s suffrage. Born into a Quaker family in 1820, Anthony had a somewhat restricted childhood, although her family was part of a “liberal” group of Quakers. She realized the inequalities between men and women at an early age and fought for equal pay as a young teacher in New York. As her interest in women’s rights grew, she spent a lot of time traveling the country and lecturing on women’s equality, often with fellow advocate Elizabeth Cady Stanton. After meeting Stanton in 1831, Anthony spent much of his time in eastern New York, near Rochester. Her neighbors and acquaintances were made up of political reformers like herself and other “social outcasts,” like Frederick Douglass, radical abolitionists, organizers of women’s rights conventions, and yes, spiritists who were beginning to congregate in and around what was happening. would become Lily Dale. During this period, he also separated more from the religion of his childhood and from Christianity in general. He found the Christian belief system at the time to be oppressive towards women, and he looked for something that would respect women as equals to men. Anthony discovered spiritism and although he was never a formal member, he recognized it as one of the few religious organizations that did not subjugate women. He gave several lectures at Lily Dale, and later, in a book on which he collaborated with Stanton, wrote: “The only religious sect in the world … that has recognized the equality of women are the Spiritualists.”