The history of women’s representation in New York

Suffragists march down Fifth Avenue in October 1917, displaying placards containing the signatures of more than 1 million New York women demanding the right to vote.
Suffragists march down Fifth Avenue in October 1917, displaying placards containing the signatures of more than 1 million New York women demanding the right to vote.
The New York Times/Redux
Suffragists march down Fifth Avenue in October 1917, displaying placards containing the signatures of more than 1 million New York women demanding the right to vote

The history of women’s representation in New York

From suffragettes to Congress, a timeline of women in state politics.
October 23, 2017

Over a century ago, on Nov. 6, 1917, women won the right to vote in New York. That meant having to convince New York voters – all men, at the time – to support the cause. Today, women are still underrepresented in just about every level of government, both in New York and on the national level. Here’s a look at how far women in New York have come – and how much further they need to go.

RELATED: For women, the fight for equality in politics continues

1848 – The first women’s rights convention in the country is held in Seneca Falls, New York. A group of attendees sign the Declaration of Sentiments, which was written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, declaring equal rights for women. 

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton [sitting] and Susan B Anthony.
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Elizabeth Cady Stanton [sitting] and Susan B Anthony.
Title Text: 
Elizabeth Cady Stanton [sitting] and Susan B Anthony.
Caption: 
Elizabeth Cady Stanton [seated] and Susan B Anthony. Anthony was a prominent abolitionist and suffragist, and Stanton had hosted the Seneca Falls Convention and written the Declaration of Sentiments calling for equal rights for women. This duo first collaborated in 1851. They later edited and published a newspaper together and founded the National Woman Suffrage Association.
Description: 
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (sitting) and Susan B Anthony
Image Credit: 
United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division

1914 – Katharine Bement Davis is appointed commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction, becoming the first woman to lead a city agency.

1915 – The first referendum is held to decide whether women should be given the right to vote in New York state, but the measure fails.

1917 – The second referendum on women’s suffrage in New York is held, and this time, it passes.

1919 – Mary Lilly and Ida Sammis become the first women to serve in the Assembly.

1920 – The 19th Amendment is ratified, giving women the right to vote across the U.S.

1929 – Ruth Pratt becomes the first woman from New York to serve in the House of Representatives.

1935 – Rhoda Fox Graves is the first woman to serve in the state Senate.

1938 – Genevieve Earle becomes the first woman in the New York City Council.

1969 – Shirley Chisholm of New York becomes the first black woman to serve in Congress.

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Rep. Shirley Chisolm in 1965.
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Rep. Shirley Chisolm in 1965.
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Rep. Shirley Chisolm in 1965.
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Shirley Chisolm. Chisholm was the first black woman elected to Congress, and made history in 1972 by running for president. She was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Caucus.
Description: 
Shirley Chisholm, Congresswoman from New York, looking at list of numbers posted on a wall.
Image Credit: 
Roger Higgins/World Telegram staff photographer/Public domain

1972 – Chisholm is the first black American to run for president of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s nomination.

1974 – Mary Anne Krupsak becomes the first female lieutenant governor in New York.

1984 – Geraldine Ferraro, a representative from Queens, becomes the first female major party nominee on a presidential ticket as the Democratic nominee for vice president.

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Vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro [right] with presidential candidate Walter Mondale at a political rally in 1984.
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Vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro [right] with presidential candidate Walter Mondale at a political rally in 1984.
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Vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro [right] with presidential candidate Walter Mondale at a political rally in 1984.
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Geraldine Ferraro. The congresswoman from Queens was the first woman to serve as a major party vice-presidential nominee. She was on the Democratic ticket with Walter Mondale (pictured left) in 1984, which lost to incumbent President Ronald Reagan.
Description: 
US. presidential candidate Walter Mondale and vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro photographed while campaigning at political rally at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. US LOC, April 27, 1984.
Image Credit: 
Warren K. Leffler/United States Library of Congress/Public Domain

1993 – Judith Kaye, who was appointed the first female judge on the New York State Court of Appeals in 1983, is named the first female chief judge of the state’s highest court.

2001 – Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate from New York.

2006 – Christine Quinn becomes the first woman and first openly gay member to serve as speaker of the New York City Council.

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Image Credit: 
William Alatriste

2012 – Andrea Stewart-Cousins becomes the first woman to lead a party conference in the state Legislature.

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Andrea Stewart-Cousins
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Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Title Text: 
Andrea Stewart-Cousins
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State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins became the first woman to lead a majority conference in the state Legislature, thanks to a Democratic sweep in 2018.
Description: 
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins became the first woman to lead a majority conference in the state Legislature, thanks to a Democratic sweep in 2018.
Image Credit: 
Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

2016 – Clinton becomes the first woman to be nominated by a major party for president.

2018 - Letitia James becomes the first woman elected attorney general of New York. 

2019 - Stewart-Cousins is elected state Senate majority leader, becoming the first woman to lead a majority conference in the state Legislature.

Grace Segers
is City & State’s digital reporter. She writes daily content on New York City and New York state politics.
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