By Peggy Stein
I spent two days in April, in Hyde Park and New Paltz respectively, with people celebrating the “Past, Present and Future of Women in Politics” with four other members of our local league.
Senator Gillibrand and I shook hands while I reflected on her remarks about Susan B. Anthony. New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul inspired me when she spoke of her hesitancy in entering the political arena and after doing so moved on to a higher office because of her daughter’s encouragement. I learned that although all women in NY won full suffrage in 1917, Native American women did not share that privilege until much later, and women were denied the right to a trial by their peers as they could not serve on a jury until 1938.
My body was fatigued after sitting and listening to speakers and panel discussions for almost two days. Then I compared that to going door to door to obtain signatures on petitions that were written in seven different languages, conducting the WWI “military census”, a process involving surveying 320,000 to disprove the accusation that women were only interested in the vote, and marching to Washington D.C. in 1917.
I am in awe of the women and men who fought for women to have the right to vote in New York State. As Margaret Thatcher said “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it”.
Marilyn Benson, Paula Blum, Phyllis Seitz and I were the other East Nassau Leaguers who travelled early on a Friday morning to attend the Women In Politics Centennial Conference. The Conference was co-sponsored by SUNY New Paltz, The FDR Library and Museum, The League of Women Voters of NYS, The Rockefeller Institute, and the Hudson River Valley Greenway.
We began at Val-Kill, the home of Eleanor Roosevelt. We had the opportunity to tour the FDR Library and Museum, and enjoyed lunch, with the opportunity to meet other Leaguers, as well as other participants at the conference. Among those we spent some time with were NYS League President Dare Thompson and the new LWVUS Executive Director, Wylecia Wiggs Harris.
We attended an interesting panel discussion of “Success Stories: Women Winning and Leading”, spent some time networking at the cocktail reception, and enjoyed yet another meal with a keynote address, “Eleanor Roosevelt, the Politician, and Woman Suffrage: A Conversation with Alida Black and Anne Lewis.” It was a very long day but worth every minute of it.
The second day of the conference was at SUNY New Paltz, where we had the opportunity to attend various workshops and hear a variety of speakers. One of the professors had her students do research and present their findings in poster format. Among them were Women of the Middle East, Women in Politics: Eastern Europe, and Women’s Representation in Western Europe. I was quite impressed with their work. I spoke with the professor to express my hope that they would be posted to a website, so that more people would have the opportunity to see them.
We all enjoyed attending the conference, and I hope that more members will take advantage of this type of opportunity in the future.