The month of March is coming to a close, but before we welcome the April showers and May flowers please join me in recognizing and commemorating the accomplishments of women during Women’s History Month. Our country is forever in debt to the outstanding contributions of numerous women throughout our history.
The roots of Women’s History month stretch back to 1857, when women from New York City factories staged a protest over working conditions. Although the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1909, it wasn’t until 1981 that National Women’s History Week was created by the U.S. Congress. In 1987, Congress expanded the week to make the entire month of March Women’s History Month.
New York State has been home and host to countless extraordinary women of vision, courage, and will. The Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 sowed the seeds of equal rights for women in the United States. Our state was also home to many “stations” on the Underground Railroad, some on Long Island, aiding escaped slaves on their flight to freedom. Abolitionist and women’s rights pioneer Sojourner Truth trekked across the island in 1843 as she promoted her causes. It was also here on Long Island that Bessica Medlar Raiche, the first woman to make a solo airplane flight in the U.S., made her home, as did musical legends Ella Fitzgerald, “The First Lady of Song,” Lena Horne, and Billie Holiday.
Women have long played a crucial role in New York State's political, social and economic development. Even before the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, guaranteeing a woman’s right to vote, women began serving in the Assembly, “the peoples’ house” of the New York State Legislature.
As a member of the Assembly, I am proud to sponsor and support legislation that continues to ensure that every woman in New York has the opportunity for success and a healthy lifestyle. I will continue to support legislation that provides vital programs for women, such as women’s health legislation which would provide insurance coverage for annual mammograms for women over the age of forty (A.4922 of 2006).
Despite all the progress that has been made, statistics show us that we still have much to do to help women in the workplace. Last year, working women of New York were earning 77 percent of the median earnings of men; minority women were earning an even more alarming 57 percent. Such large salary gaps are inexcusable, and I feel that we have a duty to address this inequality. That is why I am a proud sponsor of Assembly bill A.4498, which would provide assistance from the state to move businesses owned by women and minorities into more competitive positions, as well as the New York State Fair Pay Act (A.2712), which would ensure pay equity for all New Yorkers.
It is vital that our children learn about the exceptional accomplishments of remarkable women in our country’s history. Through March, my office has been accepting submissions for our Women’s History Month Essay Contest, asking students to tell us about a woman who has been a profound influence on them. It has been a pleasure reading their thoughtful reflections, and I look forward to reading even more before our March 31 deadline. There’s still time to send in an essay – for more information, please contact my office at 435-3214.
As Women’s History month continues, I encourage all Long Islanders to take the time to recognize the women who help to shape our lives, not just in history, but in our personal lives as well: friends, sisters, aunts, mothers and grandmothers. Please know that I will continue my work in the Assembly to promote legislation that honors and protects women, not just in the month of March, but every day of the year.