Women’s History Month – which takes place in March each year – commemorates the countless brave and influential women who have helped shape our nation’s laws and culture. Their innumerable contributions have inspired generations of Americans to prevail over adversity and accomplish their goals. The month serves as an opportunity to reflect on those lessons and honor those women.
New York State, in particular, has played a significant role in the history of women’s rights. The women’s suffrage movement, for example, was born in Seneca Falls, where the first women’s rights convention was held on July 19 and 20, 1848.
Native New Yorker Elizabeth Cady Stanton was instrumental in calling for that first convention. Women and men from across the country got together to discuss the best way to secure women the basic rights they deserved as human beings. A second convention was held in Rochester a month later, and a third was held in Syracuse in 1852. 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, nationally granting women the right to vote.
In addition to women’s suffrage, Stanton also lobbied the New York State Legislature to amend the existing Married Women’s Property Law, which would grant women the right to conduct business, manage their own finances, sue and be sued, and be joint guardians of their children. After six failed attempts, the measure passed in 1860, bringing New York’s women a giant leap closer in equal rights to men.
Many women were part of Stanton’s efforts, including transplanted New Yorker Susan B. Anthony, who devoted her life to achieving equality for women. Anthony helped make many significant strides for women, such as leading the battle for women’s suffrage, promoting equal pay for equal work and passing more liberal divorce laws. Together, Anthony and Stanton established and worked with many groups that aided in gaining equal rights for all American citizens.
The myriad of women who sacrificed, labored and fought for women’s rights paved the way for future women leaders. If it were not for their tireless efforts, current prominent women would not have had the opportunity to ascend to positions of authority.
Established in 1987, at the request of the National Women’s History Project, the U.S. Congress officially made March Women’s History Month. Since then, Congress has issued a resolution for Women’s History Month every year. With tremendous tenacity, fervor and courage, Stanton, Anthony – and numerous others – challenged the status quo, broke social norms and fought for equality. During Women’s History Month, I encourage everyone to remember all of the brave women leaders who made it possible for future generations of women to pursue – and achieve – their dreams.
To receive a women’s history brochure or to enter the children’s women’s history art contest, visit my district office at 930 Grand Concourse in the Bronx or by calling (718) 538-2000.