Women’s rights, equality topic of NY Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s talk

In his concluding remarks to the CHQ Assembly on Friday morning, July 24, Harvard University political philosophy professor Michael J. Sandel spoke about “the need to find our way to the politics of the common good.”


At 3:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, July 28, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul — a recipient of the 2020 Harriet Tubman Freedom Award — will address essential components of the common good: women’s equality and genuine equality.

Her talk is titled “Equal Rights Now: The Fight for Equality 100 Years Later.” As part of the Contemporary Issues Forum lecture series, it is sponsored by the Chautauqua Women’s Club.

Hochul serves as the highest-ranking female elected official in the state, and among many other responsibilities, the chair of New York’s Women’s Suffrage 100th Anniversary Commemoration Commission. For more than three years, she has been overseeing the programs and events celebrating ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — by New York in November 1917, and the United States in 1920.

This hard-earned, 28-word Constitutional amendment asserts as follows: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

For Hochul, her CIF talk is an “opportunity to draw a connection between the early Suffragette Movement that we’re celebrating this year, in particular because it’s the 100th anniversary of women securing the right to vote nationwide, and to talk about those challenges, the people, the barriers they had to overcome. And to bring that up to the present, 2020, and the societal movements that are being undertaken and fought in real time.”

“Before this year, I would not have been able to write the same speech,” she continued.

In August 2017, when she delivered her speech, “Women’s Suffrage: 100 Years in New York State,” as part of Chautauqua Institution’s Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series, Hochul said she focused on “the early Suffragettes and what they overcame, and how society … rebelled against the idea that women should have the right to vote. It took 70 years of fighting after the seminal 1848 women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls. So I had a different perspective just three short years ago.”

This summer, however, as she thought about what she wanted to share with Chautauquans, she said she “realized that (she) would be absolutely remiss to not talk about current events, and how what is occurring now is not unlike the women’s rights movement, but is still unfinished business. And it’s still a recognition that a conference of certain rights — such as the right to vote 100 years ago for women and guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act of 1968 for African Americans — those do not confer true equalities.”

Hochul said she will discuss the Black Lives Matter movement and the state of women in general, including economic and employment effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, political influence, and representation in Albany and Washington, D.C.

A Buffalo native and resident, Hochul earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Syracuse University and her law degree at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Upon graduation, she worked in a D.C. law firm, and then as legal counsel–legislative assistant for Congressman John LaFalce (Buffalo) and U.S. Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan (NY).

An elected member of the Hamburg (NY) Town Board from 1994 to 2007, Hochul was appointed Erie County (NY) Deputy Town Clerk in 2003. She was appointed, and soon elected, Erie County Clerk in 2007.

Four years later, she won the special election for New York’s 26th Congressional District. As a member of Congress, Hochul served on both the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, and traveled with a bipartisan, all-women delegation to war-torn Afghanistan.

In 2014 and again in 2018, N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo named Hochul as his choice for lieutenant governor. After she won her Democratic primary elections and Cuomo won his, together as a ticket they won both general elections.

According to Hochul, while serving as lieutenant governor she has “championed the ‘Enough is Enough’ law to prevent sexual assault on college campuses, spearheaded the state’s Paid Family Leave program, and is continuing to work to eliminate the gender wage gap, expand access to affordable child care, and combat sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace and beyond.”

In addition, she has led the Cuomo administration’s state-wide economic development and job creation initiatives, advocating daily “for policies that help all New Yorkers make ends meet.”

Reflecting on her CIF talk, Hochul said, “(women) represent 52 percent of the population. Would the early Suffragettes be satisfied with where we are 100 years later?”

In other words, with respect to women’s rights and true equality, have Americans found their way to the politics of the common good?

Tags : chautauqua women's clubCommunityContemporary Issues ForumDeborah TreftsErie County (NY) ClerkHamburg (NY) Town Board member (1994-2007)Kathy HochulN.Y. State Women’s Suffrage 100th Anniversary Commemoration CommissionNew York State Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Hochul (2014-present)U.S. Congress House of Representatives (2012-2014)

The author Deborah Trefts

Deborah Trefts is a policy scientist with extensive United States, Canadian and additional international experience in conservation. She focuses on the resolution of ocean and freshwater-related challenges and the art and science of deciphering and developing public policy at all levels from global to local.