Op-Ed: The race is never really over for women’s rights

Buzz is growing across New York and the entire United States as we collectively prepare for the centennial celebration in 2017 of a woman’s right to vote in the Empire State, as well as the upcoming 100 year mark since the ratification of the 19th amendment, which comes in 2020.

19K_RightToRun_Lgo_RGB_Blk_wTag_OrangeWhile it may come as a surprise to many, the birth of the modern Women’s Right Movement didn’t occur in a legislative chamber on Capitol Hill, but actually 340 miles north in the little town of Seneca Falls, New York.

It was in Seneca Falls on July 19th and 20th, 1848, when Lucretia Mott, Jane Hunt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Ann M’Clintock and others organized the first Convention on Women’s Rights. Described by social reformer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass as a “grand movement for attaining the civil, social, political, and religious rights of women,” the historic moment was marked by the signing of the Declaration of Sentiments.

One of the 32 men to sign the monumental document was Jacob Chamberlain, the eventual first president of Generations Bank, formed in 1870 and then known as the Seneca Falls Savings Bank. As modern day executives at Generations Bank, it’s truly an honor to work at an institution with such an important connection to history.  Since coming to Seneca Falls, we’ve learned quite a bit about those involved in the Convention and those still striving to achieve equality today.

In 1967, against all the prevailing “wisdom,” Kathrine Switzer made history as the first female to finish the Boston Marathon as a registered runner.  Since Switzer’s courageous triumph, involvement of women in the sport of running has increased dramatically.  According to Running USA, women now account for 57 percent of running finishers nationwide.

In sharing Kathrine’s story, and that of so many other great women, we at Generations Bank began to notice that few are aware of these critical contributions to the American story. Just as striking, stories of women account for less than 10 percent of history books and 20 percent of news articles. And therefore we have little doubt in the merits of actively contributing to the women’s rights narrative.

Our corporate home in Seneca Falls and the surrounding Finger Lakes Region is the birthplace and epicenter of Women’s Rights—and we couldn’t be more proud!  The celebration of progress made and the continuing fight for women’s equality is a resounding theme that we embrace and support.

Too few businesses and national events are dedicated to the commemoration, celebration and continuation of the spirit of the 1848 Convention.  This was a driving force in Generations Bank becoming the organizing sponsor for the Women’s Right to Run 19K/5K in Seneca Falls this upcoming May 2016.  The unique 19K distance is a nod to the 19th Amendment.  The Right to Run benefits the National Women’s Hall of Fame’s fundraising campaign, which is raising funds to rehabilitate the former Seneca Falls Knitting Mill into its future home, The Center for Great Women.  It is our hope that the event will draw national attention to the place where it all started, and, more importantly, that more will take time to learn about great women who made and make significant and lasting contributions to the fabric of our country.

Seneca Falls’ unique history was recognized recently with the Treasury Department’s formal announcement that a female will be on the face of the newly designed $10 bill.  As the centennial celebration for women’s rights nears, we ought to be on the forefront of an effort to ensure that a suitable commemorative coin is minted by the US Mint as well.  It was this past year that the US Mint created a specially designed coin for the National Baseball Hall of Fame – donating $5 to the Hall for every coin sold.  We should expect no less for the passage of the 19th Amendment.

We are hopeful that many will come together from New York State and beyond to support efforts to tell the stories of those who were brazen enough to think that all men and women were created equal – starting with a tiny Convention in Seneca Falls. Come join us, together with Kathrine Switzer, in Seneca Falls on May 7 at the Inaugural Right to Run event. Because the race is never really over.

 

Menzo D. Case
President & CEO, Generations Bank
President, Women’s Right to Run 19K, Inc.
Seneca Falls, NY

 

Katie MacIntyre
AVP, Marketing Officer, Generations Bank
Race Director, Right to Run 19K/5K
Seneca Falls, NY

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