CLINTON — The birthplace of equal rights for women and the right to vote started at the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention in 1848 is how Kathy Hochul, lieutenant governor of New York, opened her Women’s Agenda address to nearly 150 Hamilton College students at the campus Kirner-Johnson Levitt Center Auditorium on Monday, April 8.
Hochul has been traveling to colleges across New York State since 2015 when she was tasked by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to spearhead his Enough is Enough campaign which fights to rid college campuses of sexual assaults.
Named by Cuomo to the New York State Women’s Suffrage 100th Anniversary Commemorative Commission in 2016, and as the highest ranking female elected official in the Empire State she said it is her responsibility to be a stringent spokesperson for women’s and their families rights across the state.
“That’s something I take very seriously,” Hochul said. “That legacy of the early women who stood up against the tides of their time and challenged the mores of society, challenged their families, challenged their churches and challenged their communities. Because they knew in their hearts that women should be treated better than the property of men, which is exactly how it was back in that time.”
Hochul continued to explain it took 70 years after the 1848 convention for women to finally secure the right of Women’s Suffrage in the state of New York. Celebrated with great fanfare last year was the 1917 decision, which came three years ahead of the rest of the nation, to finally allow women to vote, but that is only the beginning for the lieutenant governor.
“We had great conversations last year about how far we’ve come,” Hochul said. “But I’m always about how far we have to go. Yes, we can talk about the great leaders like Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and so many others who really forced this issue. But the fact that in 1923 Alice Paul proposed an ERA and we are still waiting for an Equal Rights Amendment says to me we have a lot of unfinished business.”
Hochul said government alone cannot do the job, it needs the voices of the people. Pressure has to be created in schools, colleges, families, churches and synagogues all across the state of New York, and not just ask, but demand their legislature support Gov. Cuomo and her, so that before the end of this legislative session in June, New York State adopts its own Equal Rights Amendment into its state Constitution.
Holchul said she was optimistic it could happen. And she was optimistic for good reason, a particular reason. Holchul said complacency died in America in November of 2016.
“If you sat on the sidelines, and you did not vote, shame on all of you,” Hochul said. “The people who did not step up, who were eligible, they have to own this, where our country is today. We have to fix things. We have to make sure we listen to voices of the people, and I was so excited to see a statistic that said one out of five Americans have engaged in some sort of protest, whether it be women’s marches, the march against the Muslim ban, or marches for the environment since 2016.”
Hochul said her point was we have issues that are before us today.
“If we are going to honor our legacy, and if you’re a New Yorker...it’s in your DNA,” she said. “ Fight for causes and not just for race and gender, but for the intersectionality that we are talking about now with a little more sophistication.”
Hochul said she had a conversation with the newly elected President of the New York State College Democrats, Jonathan Gerstein, who asked her what they could do to help the lieutenant governor with her cause.
The answer was simple and direct.
“Help me get the ERA passed,” Hochul said. “Make this be a conversation on college campuses all over New York State. Because whether you’re a Democrat, or a Republican, you should believe women’s rights should be equal to men. In fact, maybe a little better...we have a lot of time to make up for.”