Thiele: Celebrate Women’s Achievements During Women’s History Month

March 1, 2011
Every March, our nation honors the diverse and momentous accomplishments of women during Women’s History Month. The commemoration pays tribute to the myriad of inspirational women who have overcome adversity and through their courageous actions, revolutionized our country’s laws and culture. The month serves as an opportunity to remember the profound impact women have had - and continue to have – on our nation’s landscape.

As the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement, New York State lies directly at the heart of women’s struggle for equality. In July 1848, native New Yorker Elizabeth Cady Stanton helped organize the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls. At the convention, Stanton added the demand for equal suffrage to the Declaration of Sentiments, which condemned male tyranny and declared that women should have access to all the rights of citizenship.

In 1917, the New York State Constitution was amended to grant women suffrage. It wasn’t until 1920, however, that the 19th Amendment was ratified, granting women the right to vote nationwide.

Alongside Stanton, countless brave women dedicated their lives to achieving equality for women including Inez Milholland, Fay Hubbard and, most notably, transplanted New Yorker Susan B. Anthony. Together, Stanton and Anthony sparked a movement within our nation that advanced women’s equality from education to divorce laws to the right to own property.

Born to immigrant parents, Brooklyn native Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress, serving from 1968 until her retirement in 1982. Throughout her career, Chisholm focused her attention on education and health care reforms and fought to improve opportunities for inner-city residents.

On August 8, 2009, Sonia Sotomayor, a native of the Bronx, was sworn in as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Sotomayor became the third woman and the first Hispanic to serve on the highest court in the nation. In March 2009, another native New Yorker, Elena Kagan, became the first female to serve as U.S. Solicitor General. Then in August 2010, Kagan joined Sotomayor as the fourth female to assume office as a justice of the Supreme Court.

Today’s women leaders were able to use the stepping stones built by courageous women of the past and pursue their dreams. It’s these women – along with so many others – that I encourage everyone to remember during Women’s History Month. Their sacrifice and determination to challenge the status quo and break through social norms have made it possible for so many women today to make their dreams a reality.