Celebrating 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in New York

November 2, 2017

The right to vote is the bedrock upon which democracy is founded. Voting is one of the strongest, most direct ways we can effect change. It's our chance to influence, inspire, make our voices heard and hold our leaders accountable. But not too long ago, women were denied the right to vote. This year marks the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in New York State - three years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

New York has long been a national leader in the advancement of women's equality, with Rochester specifically contributing to the suffrage movement. Susan B. Anthony, who lived in our city partnered with other suffragettes, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott and set in motion a decades-long push toward women's suffrage. On Nov. 6, 1917, New York legalized women's suffrage.

It wasn't an easy journey, though. While it is shameful and antiquated, at the time women were considered far from equal, with many anti-suffrage arguments focused on a woman's supposed inability to think rationally, and some even declared that women didn't have time to vote or think about politics because they were too busy taking care of the home. Nevertheless, they persisted. Brave women gave speeches in churches, convention halls, meeting houses and on street corners and circulated countless petitions. They also published newspapers, pamphlets and magazines to get their message out.

Now, as we celebrate the centennial of women's suffrage here in New York, we are not only reminded of what it took to get here, but also how far we still must go to achieve full women's equality. Far too many men still think they can control women's bodies, either through harassment or legislation, which is why safeguarding women's rights is more important than ever. My colleagues in the Assembly and I are committed to doing just that.

This year, the Assembly passed two critical pieces of legislation to strengthen and protect women's reproductive health rights. One measure affirms a woman's right to choose and the other requires insurers to continue covering FDA-approved contraceptives at no cost to the consumer (A.1748, A.1378). We also passed workplace protections including the New York State Fair Pay Act to ensure pay equity among male and female workers and to ensure that jobs traditionally held by women are not undervalued (A.4696).

A century after women's suffrage was achieved in New York, our state remains a progressive leader on women's issues and equality, recognizing that every person has inherent dignity, and deserves to be treated with respect, fairness, and full equality. For the trailblazers that came before us, the activists that stand beside us and the next generation who will continue the fight, may this anniversary serve as a spark for great strides forward in the march toward full women's equality.