Noting, in part, that 2017 is the one-hundredth anniversary of the passage in New York State of the Suffrage Act, granting women in New York the right to vote in local and state elections, and that New York was the first eastern State to pass women’s suffrage, an act that led to the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, recognizing the right for women to vote across the nation, the Tompkins County Legislature proclaimed 2017 as “The Year of the Woman in Tompkins County.”
Presenting the Proclamation was Legislator Martha Robertson, joined by County Historian Carol Kammen, along with female Legislators and County staff. Legislature Chambers were packed with women who turned out to show support for the event. Legislator Robertson said that, to answer charges by opponents that most women did not want to vote, suffragists spent more than a year going door-to-door in nearly every community throughout the state, collecting the signatures of over one million women who said that they wanted to vote, the largest individually-signed petition every assembled, a majority of women in the state. She noted that Native Americans did not have citizenship until 1924, and that full voting rights for all did not come until passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Having the so-called “right” to vote, she also cautioned, does not mean equal opportunity to vote.
Even today, the proclamation states, women still must struggle for full and equal participation in the labor force, and in political and economic life; that women have the right to make decisions about their lives, yet often suffer in a climate of sexual innuendo and/or physical harm; and that the contributions of women to the progress of our nation often go unacknowledged. To protect the rights of women in our democratic society, the proclamation continues, it is important to recognize, declare and uphold those rights—“As the dignity of all persons must be protected, women have the right to live without fear for their physical or emotional safety and the right to pursue their own dreams in a society that recognizes their value.”
The Legislature, through its proclamation “urges our residents to recognize and celebrate the crucial role that women of all races and ethnic and political backgrounds have played in our county’s history, as well as their important place throughout our county today.”
Historian Kammen said, “I thank the Legislature of Tompkins County for this Proclamation: for making a bold statement of respect and appreciation for its female citizens and commemorating the centennial of Women Suffrage in the state, and marking Tompkins County as a place of greater safety in an uncertain world.”