By DUSTEN RADER
For The Recorder
JOHNSTOWN — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand visited the Johnstown Historical Society and Museum on Aug. 10 and brought with her an message of inspiration to the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House: “We are the suffragists of this generation, and we do have to march on.”
Gillibrand’s visit served a dual purpose of both celebrating the Aug. 18, 2020, centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment — which gave women the right to vote — and the announcement of the bipartisan $2 million Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission Act.
The act will support educational programs across the country by helping the next generation of New Yorkers see how important Stanton and the women’s suffrage movement was, Gillibrand said.
“We are approaching the 100th anniversary of the American women’s right to vote and as we get closer to this incredible milestone we need to make sure we are prepared to educate our kids,” Gillibrand said. “This law, the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission Act, will create new opportunities to develop educational programs to teach Americans about the women’s suffrage movement. It provides grants to organizations like this [Johnstown Historical Society and Museum] to amplify these voices and stories.”
According to Gillibrand, inspiring youth, especially girls, is important for facing future challenges, including: the FAMILY Act, affordable child care, equal pay for equal work, diversity in government, and sexual violence.
“When the suffragists marched, they knew that only when every woman and girl in this country reached their god-given potential could America finally reach its full potential,” Gillibrand said. “There are a lot of issues that we need to fight for today and one of those issues is workplace policy — they do not reflect the face of the workforce. We are literally the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t have paid leave.
“We as workers in this country should have the right to take time to meet that family need. Workers who do never ramp back on where they left off, earning less and never reaching their full economic potential. It overwhelmingly impacts women, but men as well. In a lifetime, a woman will lose $320,000 from having no paid leave, and a man loses $280,000. We need to have a nationwide paid leave program and I have a bill that makes it affordable at $2 a week.”
Before giving a speech outside the museum, Gillibrand took a tour of the building and the Stanton room.
“I loved my tour,” Gillibrand said. “I’ve been studying a lot about suffrage over the past year and so I know a lot about Elizabeth’s story. The pictures of her from when she was a young mother straight through her career are really inspiring — it really was an entire life dedicated to earning rights for women. It was a life well-lived and one that had so many meaningful lessons for us people who are carrying on that torch. … There is no doubt that she is one of our greatest leaders in American History. She brought to our country a point of view that women deserve equality and the right to be heard.”
Coline Jenkins, great-great-granddaughter of Stanton, shared the podium with Gillbrand during the event. Jenkins said even though Stanton didn’t have rights, she used the law to make her voice heard and inspire others to do the same.
“Welcome to Johnstown — these are the people who keep the fire burning,” Jenkins said. “The burden of responsibility is on the citizens of Johnstown to tell this national and international story.”
Gillbrand also shared a story about Stanton’s granddaughter, Nora Stanton Barney, who was the first female civil engineer in the U.S. A $30 million tunnel boring machine that will repair a New York City aqueduct has been named “Nora” by the Department of Environmental Protection in recognition of the trailblazing suffragist.
The event was held in conjunction with an event today, the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Plaque Dedication Ceremony to be held at the band shell at the West Main Street Park at 4 p.m. The New York State Historical Marker plaque will stand in front of the Fulton County Court House.