As we celebrate National Women’s History Month, please join me in taking a moment to celebrate special women in history, and in our own lives. It is vital to commemorate women in our history who have done so much for our country. Women such as Betsy Ross, who created our nation's most cherished symbol-the American flag; Harriett Tubman, who guided more than 300 slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad; and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony who dedicated their lives working for the women’s rights and suffrage movement.
The roots of Women’s History month stretch back to 1857, when women from New York City factories staged a protest over working conditions. International Women’s Day was first observed in 1909, but it wasn’t until 1981 that Congress established National Women’s History Week, to be celebrated each year during the second week of March. In 1987, Congress expanded the week to a month.
Central New York is rich with women’s history. Most notable is the Seneca Falls Convention, often called the birthplace of the feminist movement. Right here in Onondaga County is the home of Matilda Joslyn Gage, the site of regular anti-slavery activity and a possible station on the Underground Railroad during the years before the Civil War. The Gage House is among three women’s history sites open to the public in Central New York, and is the eastern terminal of the National Women’s Rights History Trail proposed by the National Park Service. More information on Matilda Joslyn Gage and touring her home can be found on the Web.
Women have long played a crucial role in New York State's political, social and economic development. Women have been serving in the Assembly since 1919, one year before the passage of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing a woman’s right to vote. I am proud to sponsor and support legislation in the Assembly that continues to ensure that every woman in New York has the opportunity for success and a healthy lifestyle. I will continue to support legislation that provides vital programs for women, such as women’s health legislation which would provide insurance coverage for annual mammograms for women over the age of forty (A. 4922 of 2006).
To help women in business, I sponsored legislation that will provide assistance from the state to move businesses owned by women and minorities into more competitive positions (A.4498 of 2007). Unfortunately, there is still work to be done to assist women in the workplace. It is both disheartening and appalling that in this day and age there is still a large gap in salaries between men and women. Statistics last year showed working women of New York were earning 77 percent of the median earnings of men, and minority women were earning an even more alarming 57 percent. To ensure pay equity for all New York women I sponsored legislation last year which would enact the New York State Fair Pay Act (A.3637) and make discriminatory salary practices unlawful (A.2825). The Assembly also passed a resolution (K.1321 of 2006) urging Congress to provide pay equity for all people who perform work of comparable skill, effort and responsibility.
I was proud to sponsor legislation that commemorates civil rights activist Rosa Louise Parks and names February 4 ‘Rosa Parks Day’ (Ch. 221 of 2006). Rosa Parks, known as "the mother of the civil rights movement" was a pioneer in the fight to end segregation. Her courage and determination for equality and justice played a major role in ending discrimination in America. This law pays tribute to her undeniable dignity, courage, and achievements. As people of New York State, we shall not let her leadership and success go unrecognized.
I will continue to work in the Assembly to further legislation that honors and protects women. As Women’s History month continues, I encourage all Central New Yorkers to take the time to recognize the women in life that are special to you; friends, sisters, aunts, mothers and grandmothers. Women’s History Month events are being held throughout Onondaga County and will continue throughout the month of March.