This March marks the celebration of the 22nd annual Women’s History Month, during which time Americans are encouraged to learn more about the profound influence women have had – and continue to have – on the shaping of our country.
The women’s suffrage movement was born in the heart of New York State a little more than 160 years ago when the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls. Seventy-two years later, in 1920, after decades of struggle and adversity, women across the country finally won the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Prior to securing the right to vote, American women were effectively second class citizens. It was nearly impossible for them to hold public office, meaning they were denied a say or official influence in how their government operated or in the formation of laws that shaped their lives. Progress for women has never come easily – they have fought hard every step of the way to seek an education, own property, sign and hold contracts, and earn and keep their own wages.
In many cases, New York was the battleground for these hard fought victories for women, putting New York at the heart of the national women’s rights movement. Furthermore, the groundbreaking women’s rights leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were both New Yorkers. As a New York woman myself, I take great pride in the work of those who came before me and do my best to continue their tradition and keep their legacy alive. I have authored a bill which will create a women’s rights trail highlighting the historic places in New York that represent the struggle for equal rights, such as Carrie Chapman Catt's home in New Rochelle, the Susan B. Anthony house, Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, the Elizabeth Stanton House and the gravesites of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Carrie Chapman Catt in the Bronx. I believe I must do my part to honor and remember the women who fought for the rights I now enjoy and gave me the opportunity to hold the office I now do.
Most importantly, though, women’s history is not just about women or for women – it is an important part of understanding the history of New York State as a whole and understanding the way our state has contributed to the overall development of the United States. I hope all New Yorkers will take the opportunity this month to remember, appreciate and learn more about the brave women who challenged the status quo and made America a better place for us all.
To help students learn more about the key roles New York women played in the national women’s rights movement, the Assembly has created educational materials designed to teach middle-school students about women’s history, with a focus on the achievements made in New York State. For more information on these materials, or other information about women’s history, please call my office at 914-723-1115.