August 27, 2020

NYSUT women 'ACT' to commemorate suffrage centennial

Source:  NYSUT Women's Committee
nysut women


Capacity building.

Taking action.

"ACT" was the central theme of “NYSUT Women Vote 2020,” a live virtual event hosted by NYSUT and the NYSUT Women’s Committee to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. The need for racial and gender justice for all women, and the importance of voting in 2020, were also highlighted.

“Like many milestones in our nation’s march toward justice and equality, the 19th Amendment wasn’t perfect,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango, who chairs the NYSUT Women’s Committee and hosted the event. “While the 19th Amendment guaranteed white women the right to vote, many women of color were denied voting rights due to discriminatory Jim Crow laws.”

Organizers paid tribute to lesser-known women of color, who played important roles in the voting rights movement, with “suffrage seconds” that extolled participants to remember “her words and her name.” Women like Mary Church Terrell who founded the National Association of Colored Women in 1896, or Septima Poinsette Clark who developed literacy and citizenship workshops that played an important role in the drive for voting rights and civil rights for African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. Or Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, a Chinese immigrant who, despite being denied citizenship due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, worked tirelessly on behalf of the cause.

“The history of the suffrage movement is long and storied and, as we move forward, we want to make sure we acknowledge the contributions of women of color,” said Betty Rosa, New York State interim commissioner of education, who told participants to teach this history in their classrooms during a brief address.

Andrea Stewart Cousins, New York State Senate majority leader, encouraged participants to learn from history and keep up the fight for women to take their rightful place in governance. “We hold up half the world, but our government doesn’t reflect that.”

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Nathaalie Carey, executive deputy commissioner of the Department of Labor, reminded all that “there is no room for divisiveness on the road to equality. Together we must stand up and demand better than the status quo.”

NYSUT Women’s Committee members statewide shared how they commemorated the anniversary in their communities. From posting daily women’s history facts throughout the month of August on social media, to creating “Did you know?” cards with suffrage facts, committee members found unique ways to celebrate 100 years.

Getting out the vote was a common thread throughout the evening. “It’s clear that when women vote, we all win,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta who, in welcoming remarks, reminded attendees that the presidential race isn’t the only contest on the ballot Nov. 3rd — many congressional and state races are in contention as well.

“We’re always looking for members to help out with phone banking and other activities. Contact your regional political organizer to get involved,” said Pallotta.

The program ended with a call to action. “Are you inspired?” asked United Federation of Teachers member Janella Hines, a NYSUT Board member. “Use the resources on the NYSUT Women’s Committee page to start a committee in your region; and take the NYSUT Women pledge to vote and share it on social media using the hashtag #NYSUTWomenVote.”

Other directives included visiting to check your voter registration and find your polling place; checking NYSUT endorsements; returning your census form; requesting an absentee ballot; and reaching out to five other women to confirm their voting plans.

“The presidential election of 2020 matters, it’s a referendum on what and who we value in this country,” said DiBrango. “We must educate our sisters and brothers to create a legacy of voting that not only impacts this election, but ripples through our nation and changes the electorate in this country for the next 100 years.”