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Celebrating 100 years of women's suffrage in New York

Mike Desmond

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was among a group celebrating the centennial of New York women getting the right to vote in Kenmore Sunday.

New Yorkers gave women the right to vote before it became a federal right, but not a lot sooner. As chair of the New York State Women's Suffrage Commission, the lieutenant governor delivered an impassioned speech at Kenmore United Methodist Church to a crowded house, including several Girl Scouts.

Hochul said women today have to carry the banners of the suffragettes who forced their way to the vote and move further on other issues, especially economic issues.

"We have to also examine what we are doing today to also advance the lives of women and give them more equality," Hochul said. "Because the right to vote did not guarantee equality. Women are not paid the same for the same amount of work. They are not treated the same in politics or in the board rooms. Their representation in both those places of power is woefully lower than it should be."

Buffalo State College President Katherine Conway-Turner celebrated the event reading by reading a statement by Victoria Woodhull, first woman to run for president in 1872, when women generally couldn't vote.

"Women hold a part of the world. There is so much that we do every day. I have three daughters and I myself remember when they were little, each one of them I took with me to vote and I explained to them the sacrifice that women and men had done so that I could vote and they could learn to vote," said Conway-Turner.

Many other speakers presented statements from prominent suffragettes and those who men who helped the push for woman suffrage, like Frederick Douglass.

Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick' granddaughter Kaile Peete read from Douglass.

"Woman should have every honorable motive to exertion which is enjoyed by man, to the full extent of her capacities and endowments. The case is too plain for argument. Nature has given woman the same powers, and subjected her to the same earth, breathes the same air, subsists on the same food, physical, moral, mental and spiritual. She has, therefore, an equal right with man, in all efforts to obtain and maintain a perfect existence," she read.

Karen King, executive director of the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women, read from comments by Susan B. Anthony as she was sentenced for trying to vote and the judge gaveled her down.

Lt. Gov. Hochul said women are angry about what happened in last year's election and are responding by running for office to support the issues that concern them. She said there are 11,000 women running for office across the country in Tuesday's elections. She even met after her talk with a young woman and plans to be a mentor on running for office.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"I had children in the schools, so I really knew my community and when I stepped up to say I want to fight for Hamburg, they knew I meant it," Hochul said of her first political campaign for Hamburg Town Board as a young lawyer and activist. "And so I was never patronized by anyone. I would say, when I was the only woman on the Town Board, there were jokes about now all the walls would be painted pink, but I grew up with a lot of brothers and I took the banter. You talk sports. You get along and I developed very close friendships with these individuals."

When asked about the resignation of Empire State Development's Sam Hoyt, in the midst of a sexual harassment investigation, Hochul said the Cuomo Administration is fighting sexual harassment in the workplace.

"I would say that women need to stand up for their rights," she said. "They need to let us know if there are cases where they feel subjected to workplace sexual harassment and I don't know if that's what went on here, since she was not an employee of the individual we are speaking of, so this is different. But I want every woman who works in the State of New York government to know that they don't have to be subjected to unwanted advances or comments or overtures from anyone."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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