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Editorial: Equality is elusive a century after N.Y. women won the right to vote

Women have come a long way since winning the right to vote, but still have a long way to go to gain equality in pay and opportunity alongside men.

Still, New York State has something to celebrate Monday. The day will mark 100 years since the state’s voters – all males – granted women the right to vote. The state’s action came three years before ratification of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote across the nation.

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Hochul, chairwoman of the New York State Women’s Suffrage Commission, has spent recent weeks carrying the message of women’s suffrage and equality across the state to editorial boards and audiences. To mark the event, businesses, including The Buffalo News building, will be lit in purple. City Hall and the Peace Bridge will sport purple and gold lighting to highlight two of the movement’s colors.

It was a long battle that was formalized at the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in 1848. Delegates demanded equal rights, including the right to vote. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott, along with African-American women such as Mary B. Talbert, Mary Church Terrell and Sojourner Truth, worked to make that demand a reality.

New York’s pivotal role in this is told as part of the I Love New York campaign: Hochul says the anniversary should be commemorated with more than a look back at history. We need to look at where society is today and ask how history will judge this part of the 21st century.

Women in New York have been voting for a century, but they still are underrepresented in politics and in the corporate world. Even in New York State and New York City, which tend to pay women more than most, women earn less than men. Because women are paid less but tend to live longer, they can be thrust into an impoverished old age.

It all adds up to a still imbalanced scale, particularly harmful for women heads of households raising children on their own. This inequality is not what society should want, or stand for.

The #MeToo movement is shining light on sexual harassment in the workplace. With today’s women standing up and demanding equal treatment with no strings or favors attached, Hochul wants to add another hashtag declaring #It’sOver.

Women will come closer to true equality when there are significantly more of them in positions of political and economic power, able to mentor a new generation of women leaders unafraid to accept the challenge of entering a traditionally male-dominated field.

It starts by celebrating the victory for women in this state 100 years ago, and making a pledge to help create better outcomes over the next hundred.

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