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Stirpe celebrates historic Central New York women during Women’s History Month

— As you may know, March is Women’s History Month, a time when the contributions of women around the world, both past and present, are recognized. Many of the women and events that have shaped women’s history came from, or occurred in, Central New York.

In July 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a native Central New Yorker, organized the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls. During the conference, Stanton drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, shaping women’s rights for future generations. The declaration demanded equal rights for women in voting, the law, education and employment. Stanton’s efforts helped women secure the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

From that first meeting in Seneca Falls, Central New York has been at the forefront of the fight to advance gender equality and women’s rights. Matilda Joslyn Gage, a Fayetteville native, was one of the first pioneers. A progressive visionary of women’s rights and human liberation, Gage is often unacknowledged as a leader of the movement. With Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, she wrote the early arguments, inspired the passions and organized the political action for women’s suffrage in 19th-century America.

The tireless work of Gage and many others during those early years set the stage for women in politics. Nationally, women broke down barriers and set record numbers across the nation in the 2012 elections. A record 20 women will represent their states in the U.S. Senate this year, with four states having elected a woman to that seat for the first time ever.

During Women’s History Month, the contributions of historic women should be at the forefront of our minds. I am holding a women’s history month essay contest in our area for grades seven through 12. You can enter either by contacting my office at 452-1115 or by email via stirpea@assembly.state.ny.us. I will also be hosting a Women of Distinction awards ceremony on March 23 at the Matilda Joslyn Gage House. For more information on the event or to nominate an outstanding woman in our area, visit tinyurl.com/womenofdistinction2013.

Al Stirpe represents the 127th Assembly District. He can be reached at 452-1115 or stirpea@assembly.state.ny.us.

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