Women's Day at NYS Fair Focuses on Past Rights Struggles & Present Inequalities

Aug 30, 2017

Women's Day celebrated at the NYS Fair Wednesday
Credit John Smith/WAER News

Fairgoers may have noticed well dressed women attending the State Fair today on Women’s Day.  They are pausing to remember influential women and the year that women were granted the right to vote in New York State in 1917.  The historical significance of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial in New York State is being observed.  A dedicated display is set up in the Art and home Center.  Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul says there are prominent names of the women's movement who come to mind.

Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul spoke at the Women's Day Luncheon
Credit John Smith/WAER News

“Great suffragettes, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, all of them worked together to get it over the finish line.  If we don’t understand and appreciate that history, we’ll take for granted that sacred right that they fought for us, and that’s the right to vote.”

The Founder of the Matilda Josyln Gage Foundation in Fayetteville, Sally Roesch Wagner, has similar historical figures in mind.  She says the women decided to focus on voting rights and left other rights issues behind.

“The ones who don’t sit on the sidelines of history and watch it be made, but the ones who take the forefront and make history.  Well behaved women rarely make history.  I’m talking about the women who made history and they were dangerous.”

Suffragists voting in picture from 1917, part of the Women's Suffrage exhibit at the NYS Fair
Credit Library of Congress

Wagner presented a talk on “Dangerous Women” who challenged the status quo of the times, sometimes at the threat of their personal well-being.

“And two of them, Anthony not (so much), only in the early years.  But Stanton and Gage I think maintained their dangerous level t society, in its unjust condition, until the end of their lives.”

While the State has made significant progress on Women’s Rights, Hochul says the pay gap still exists.  She continues to encourage young girls and women to consider STEM fields with higher paying jobs.

“Part of it’s institutional; part of it’s cultural, but sometimes women just have to be educated to know that they should be standing up for their rights to earn what men in the workplace do”

Quilts and other needlework part of the Women's Day displays
Credit John Smith/WAER News

Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo announced the creation of the first State Council on Women which is charged with assessing how new policies and programs will impact the experiences of women and girls.