I am sharing the following reflection from my friend and fellow YWCA Hartford Region board member, Stacy Smith Walsh. Let us not forget what the women before us did to give women the right to vote and all the opportunities, rights and privileges that women enjoy today.
- If you would like to be part of celebrating and empowering women and their many contributions to our society – past, present and future – I invite you to make a $25 donation to the YWCA Hartford Region. It’s easy to do – here’s the link: https://pink.secure-host.com/ywcahartford/support_invest1.php
Honoring a Legacy
Sometimes I find myself stunned by the thought that less than 100 years ago, women in the United States did not have the right to vote. This fundamental and precious right of citizenship, which so many people take for granted and fail to exercise, was one for which scores of women fought-and some nearly died-during seven decades of oppositional grandstanding, ferocious browbeating, passionate arguing, and tireless advocacy.
The story of the battle for women’s suffrage (91 years old this year) is one of high intrigue and suspense even though we know the outcome – and is certainly worthy of examination as Women’s History Month is now upon us. Women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Welles, and so many others, have left a legacy for us. But Women’s History Month in general and the fight for women’s suffrage in particular, cause me, as a YWCA member, to reflect not on the victories and heroines of the past, but on the challenges in the future.
How does the legacy of these women help us now?
I will confess that Elizabeth Cady Stanton is my personal heroine, so I’ll share a little of her history and how it impacts and, in some ways, drives me. Elizabeth was the primary architect of the early women’s rights movement. In the mid 19th century, she was the first person to argue that women should have the right to vote – and was harshly criticized for taking that extreme position. Some of her bold and imaginative pleas for women’s rights were radical even by today’s standards.
So, it is her voice I hear in my head as I contemplate today’s political realities (or should I say circuses?), and it is through the prism of her philosophies that I view the spectrum of my views on the issues of the day. Of course, it’s hard to measure up. What can I – a 21st century, generation-X, working mother – do to honor the legacy of women like Elizabeth, who understood the profound importance of participation and representation in the political process?
I think Elizabeth would tell me – and all of us – that we honor the legacy of women’s history by doing three simple things:
- Vote. Own your place in government and in politics. Exercise the right to have your voice heard in the political forum. Failure to do so is fundamentally disrespectful to the women who fought to make sure we had that right. Elizabeth would scold you if she knew you were shirking your responsibility to participate in the elective franchise! This is the easy one.
- Inform yourself. Decide on what is important to you. Read the newspaper. Attend a community forum. Find out what your elected representatives think (they will tell you!) and how they are voting on issues that matter to you. Investigate YWCA’s own advocacy agenda and support our efforts to raise awareness of and obtain legislative support for issues affecting women and children in our community: access to quality education, workforce development and job training, prevention of sex trafficking of minors and reproductive choice and access to services.
- Take a stand. Participate in government. Contact your elected officials. Write a letter to the editor. Be an active participant in your world. Especially in a presidential election year, when rhetoric abounds about governmental priorities and responsibilities, take the opportunity to make your voice heard.
As a YWCA Hartford Region board member, I evaluate, analyze and help create policy around the work of YWCA Hartford Region and its programs: its advocacy agenda, its early childhood curriculum, its programming for young women and its fight against racism and social injustice. I am proud to be part of an organization that in words and deeds is honoring the legacy of the pioneers of women’s history, advocating on behalf of women, insisting on equality.
Elizabeth would be proud of us – but she would push us to do more, to look towards the future, and to remember the hard-won victories in the past that brought us where we are today.
About the writer: Stacy Smith Walsh is the firm wide Director of Human Resources at Day Pitney LLP, a full-service law firm with more than 300 attorneys in offices in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Boston and Washington, DC. Stacy is a “recovering lawyer” – prior to working in human resources, she was a labor and employment litigator.
Stacy has been on the Board of Directors of the YWCA Hartford Region since 2008, and has served in various leadership roles on the Board over the years. Stacy was honored by the Connecticut Bar Association in 2009 with an Outstanding Leadership Award for her contributions and service to women in the legal profession. Stacy received her B.A., magna cum laude, in Speech Communication from the University of Alabama, her M.A. in Rhetoric from the University of Maryland, and received her J.D., cum laude, from Cornell Law School.