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'Another glass ceiling broken': High hopes for Hochul from major women's institutions

(Left to right) Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Susan B. Anthony Museum & House President and CEO Deborah Hughes, and then-Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in front of Anthony's house in Rochester.
Randy Gorbman
(Left to right) Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Susan B. Anthony Museum & House President and CEO Deborah Hughes, and then-Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in front of Anthony's house in Rochester.

“Another glass ceiling broken” is how the leader of the Women's Hall of Fame describes the rise of Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Executive Director Jennifer Gabriel leads the Hall of Fame, which tells the stories of female leaders from around the world. When Gabriel was growing up, she said she didn’t see many women in prominent roles, and she didn't think she'd ever see a female governor in New York.

“On a very personal level, this is a very exciting moment, certainly for our state and for women who want to achieve their dreams,” Gabriel said.

Hochul took office Tuesday after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned amid several scandals, including allegations of sexual harassment against 11 women. Gabriel said New York has been through a lot the last few months as those scandals swirled around Cuomo. She hopes Hochul helps New Yorkers heal.

Deborah Hughes thinks Hochul is capable of that. The CEO of the Susan B. Anthony Museum and House said after years of sitting on the state Women’s Suffrage Commission with Hochul, she got to see how the new governor works.

Hughes said Hochul has done an incredible job building relationships across the state — in part by simply showing up.

"I think that Kathy Hochul is one of those people who listens to her constituents, a great variety of her constituents, and is seeking to find good public policy for the state of New York,” Hughes said.

New York’s new governor has an apparent soft spot for a Rochester landmark.

Hughes said Hochul, who is known for crisscrossing the state like most lieutenant governors, would frequently visit the Susan B. Anthony house even when reporters were not around. They’ve even met at Anthony’s gravesite in Mount Hope Cemetery a few times to reflect on the suffragist's legacy.

While they didn’t always agree politically or on tactics, Hughes said Hochul has a quality that she admires, and she believes Susan B. Anthony would feel the same.

“She’s the kind of governor or elected official that Anthony most appreciated,” said Hughes. “She believes that she’s elected to serve all the people, not just her political party. Anthony really believed that we shouldn’t connect ourselves to political parties, because once you did, you’d be beholden to their entire political agenda.”

With Hochul's ascent, Gabriel is hopeful that the governor and other women in powerful positions will address deep-seated issues.

“You know, I see coming down a lot more conversations about equality and what that means beyond the words,” Gabriel said.

As Gabriel sees it, the next frontiers for women’s rights are in areas like addressing pay disparities and harassment in the workplace.

Before coming to WXXI News, James spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for Rochester City Newspaper. While at City, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.