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New York Gov. Hochul’s swearing in a milestone in fight for gender equality

 Gov. Kathy Hochul
WAMC
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Gov. Kathy Hochul

Kathy Hochul's swearing-in as New York's first female elected governor Sunday is being hailed as "a long time coming."

Governor Kathy Hochul took the oath of office on Sunday, becoming New York’s first elected female governor.

Rensselaer County historian Kathryn Sheehan sees the Democrat’s achievement as a culmination of the years women have struggled for equality and tried to stake out their own space in politics.

“Well, I think I think what's wonderful is being New Yorkers, that, once again, even though we have other women governors in different states, I think it comes from a longstanding look that women have been progressive here in New York and New Yorkers have been supportive of that, right through history," Sheehan said. "And we look at some of the past women who went on like that, like Geraldine Ferraro and Victoria Woodhull and Shirley Chisholm, you know, they had these successful careers. So there's a lot of women coming up to the plate before Governor Hochul, and I think that's great. And I think I think we support that. So I'm glad it finally happened. I think it would have been great to happen some years ago, but hey, I'll take it."

Ferraro, a Democrat, was the party's vice presidential nominee in 1984. Woodhull ran for president as the "Equal Rights Party" candidate in 1872. In 1968 Chisholm, also a Democrat, became the first Black woman be elected to Congress, representing Brooklyn.

"We have a lot of a lot of women who worked very hard for particularly women's suffrage, and that were New Yorkers. And, you know, so again, I always think, gosh, they must be looking down saying, Wow, this is great," said Sheehan. "All this work we did. And it finally, and it finally happened, you know."

Jennifer Gabriel, executive director of the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, says Hochul has broken the glass ceiling.

“I also think it's about what individuals do once they become the first to achieve something like this," Gabriel said. "You know, it's really as important that achievement happens as it is that they then use that platform to do good in the world is to lift others up. So for me, one of the most inspiring things about Governor Hochul is that she has said she didn't run for governor to make history, she ran for governor to make a difference. And I think that says a lot about her character. And, you know, just gives me a lot of hope for the future of our state. And, you know, for what little girls across this great state will feel as they grow up seeing that this is a possibility for them too."

In 2013, City Treasurer Kathy Sheehan also broke a glass ceiling when she became the first female elected mayor of Albany, a city whose history dates back centuries.

“I think that it's a testament to Governor Hochul that not only is she the first woman in this job, but she is also so highly qualified for it," said Sheehan. "And it's no surprise to me that we have someone with her credentials, her background, her experience working at the local, federal and state level in government. The breadth of her experience, really, I think speaks to the fact that she is ready for this job and that she's going to do an outstanding job as our governor.”

Hochul is scheduled to give her State of the State address January 10th.

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Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.