About the Commission

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Welcome to the Women's Suffrage Commission
WYSIWYG

Welcome Message from Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Commission Chair

As New Yorkers, we have so much to be proud of. We are living in one of the most progressive states in the nation and we are living out the legacy of leaders who started the Women’s Rights movement in Seneca Falls.

In 1848, bold women set out on a path for equality, and changed the course of history -- not just here in the New York, but across the nation and around the globe. By demanding equal rights, they lit a spark that continues to inspire all of us today. In New York State, we were again ahead of the curb in giving women the right to vote in 1917, three years before the 19th Amendment was ratified.

Governor Cuomo and our legislative leaders have made sure that we mark these anniversaries and that the meaning behind these remarkable accomplishments aren’t lost to history. I hope all of you – women and men alike -- will join us and bring along young people to commemorate women’s suffrage.

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Meet the Commission Members
Meet the Commission Members
WYSIWYG

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul

As Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul chairs 10 Regional Economic Development Councils that have transformed the state’s economy by building upon regional strengths through long-term strategic plans. The Councils include leaders from academia, business, labor and not-for-profits and, to date, have invested $4 billion into more than 4,100 projects across the State. The Lieutenant Governor also chairs the State Workforce Investment Board which addresses the number one concern of businesses: the lack of skilled workers.

Governor Cuomo appointed Lieutenant Governor Hochul to chair the Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Abuse and Addiction. In this capacity, she convened eight outreach sessions across New York State to hear from experts and community members in search of answers to the heroin crisis and works to develop a comprehensive strategy for New York.

Hochul spearheaded Governor Cuomo’s Enough is Enough campaign to combat sexual assault on college campuses beginning in 2015 hosting and attending more than 25 events. As the highest ranking female elected official in New York State, she continues to be a champion for women and families across the state. In March 2016, Governor Cuomo named her to the New York State Women’s Suffrage 100th Anniversary Commemoration Commission.

She represents Governor Cuomo across the state and in just her first year visited each of the State’s 62 counties logging 51,000 miles -- enough to circle the globe twice. Hochul tours main streets, meets local business owners, visits college campuses and meets regularly with mayors, supervisors and other community leaders. The Lieutenant Governor builds support for the Governor’s initiatives including the minimum wage increase, paid family leave, ethics reform and infrastructure investment.

In Congress: As Lieutenant Governor, Hochul is liaison to New York’s federal representatives in Washington, D.C. From 2011 to 2013, she served in the U.S. House representing New York’s 26th Congressional District. Then Congresswoman Hochul served on the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, traveling to Afghanistan to confer with military leaders and meet with active duty men and women. Her focus in Congress was job creation and bridging the skills gap by bringing together business and academia, and creating opportunities for returning veterans.

Prior to becoming Lieutenant Governor, she was Group Vice President for Strategic Relationships at M&T Bank, serving as liaison for community matters and significant economic development projects.

Erie County: Lieutenant Governor Hochul served as County Clerk from 2007 to 2011.  Before that, Hochul worked for 14 years as a Hamburg Town Councilmember. She served as liaison to the local economic development agency and worked to attract to new businesses and create jobs following the loss of the WNY manufacturing base.

The Lieutenant Governor holds a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and a law degree from Catholic University in Washington, DC. She began her legal career working at a large firm in Washington, DC and later served as legal counsel and legislative assistant to Congressman John LaFalce and later Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. She was instrumental in drafting legislation related to campaign finance reform, immigration reform and combating drug abuse.

In 2006, Hochul joined her mother and aunt in establishing the Kathleen Mary House, a transitional home for victims of domestic violence.

Little

Senator Betty Little

Senator Betty Little is serving her ninth term representing the residents of the 45th Senate District, which comprises Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Warren and parts of St. Lawrence and Washington Counties.

Prior to first winning election to the State Senate in November 2002, Senator Little served in the New York State Assembly for seven years.

Senator Little's ninth term builds on many legislative successes. These include: adoption of an initiative that encourages local governments to work cooperatively and share services to save tax dollars; reform of the adverse possession law to ensure greater fairness for property owners; a law to restrict the sale, possession and importation of invasive species; creation of the Adirondack Community Housing Trust; passage of the historic Timber Theft Law; expanding net metering to encourage investment in renewable power production including solar, wind and waste energy; and sponsored legislation and secured funding to help combat Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

Senator Little also has sponsored several successful New York State Constitutional Amendments to help residents, the economy and the environment in the Adirondacks.

The mother of an active-duty combat veteran, Senator Little was honored to sponsor Patriot Plans I and II, which expanded benefits and services available to New York's military personnel and their families. Senator Little also proudly sponsored a law designating the Adirondack Northway, I-87, the "Adirondack Veterans' Memorial Highway" in honor of all New York veterans who have served our country.

A former teacher, Senator Little is pleased to serve as the ranking Minority member on the Senate’s Education Committee. She also serves on the following committees: Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation; Environmental Conservation; Finance; Health; Housing, Construction and Community Development; New York City Education; and Rules.

Senator Little first began public service as a member and later Chair of the Town of Queensbury Recreation Commission. In 1986, she was elected as an At-Large-Supervisor to the Warren County Board of Supervisors for the Town of Queensbury, where she served on various committees, including the Warren County Recycling Advisory Committee which she organized and chaired, and as County Budget Officer in 1990 and 1991.

Senator Little has earned numerous awards and distinctions during her years of public service. In 1992, she was the recipient of the prestigious Liberty Bell Award for Community Service and in 1997 she was awarded the Adirondack Girl Scouts' Women of Distinction Award. In 2000, Senator Little received the Public Service Sector Partnership Award from the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council. The Community Health Care Association of New York State presented Senator Little with their Legislative Leadership Award in February 2005. Also in 2005, she was recognized as Legislator of the Year by Families Together in New York State for her advocacy on behalf of families with children suffering from emotional and behavioral disabilities.

In May of 2006, the New York State Economic Development Council presented Senator Little with their Advance New York Leadership Award. In 2007, she was awarded the Charles Stewart Parnell Award by the American-Irish Legislators Society of New York State.

For her advocacy on behalf of armed services men and women she was presented the Mary G. Roebling Distinguished Service Award in 2011 by the Association of the United States Army First Region.

The New York State School Boards Association presented her with their State Leader of the Year Award for her exemplary advocacy on behalf of public education. She also has been honored by the New York State Farm Bureau as a member of their "Circle of Friends" throughout her years of service in the Legislature.

In December 2007, Senator Little was awarded an honorary doctorate by her alma mater, the College of Saint Rose.

Born in Glens Falls, Senator Little is a graduate of St. Mary's Academy and the College of Saint Rose with a degree in Elementary Education. A former teacher and realtor, she resides in Queensbury. Senator Little is the mother of six children, Elizabeth, David, Robert, Thomas, Carolyn and Luke, and the proud grandmother of eighteen.

Montgomery

Senator Velmanette Montgomery

Velmanette Montgomery is recognized for her effective leadership and steadfast commitment to her constituents of north and central Brooklyn as well as to New Yorkers statewide.

In her role as the Ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Children and Families, Senator Montgomery is committed to helping young people achieve positive outcomes through reform of the State's juvenile justice, foster care and adoptive care systems.

Senator Montgomery continues to be one of New York's leading proponents of school-based health care as a model system for delivering comprehensive primary and mental health services to children of all ages, in the school setting where youth spend most of their day. The Senator's Teen Health Agenda includes legislation that requires, among other things, the teaching of age appropriate, medically accurate sexuality education in kindergarten through 12th grade. Senator Montgomery is the co-sponsor of the law that allows for the certification of nurse practitioners, and she spearheaded the campaign to stem the spread of AIDS among intravenous drug users through legalized needle exchange programs.

As a respected advocate for criminal justice reform and a member of the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction, Senator Montgomery sponsored a law that prevents New Yorkers from being arbitrarily denied a license to barber or practice cosmetology just because they spent time in prison. She also authored a law that prohibits the shackling of a pregnant woman in prison while being transported to the hospital to deliver her baby.

Other recent Montgomery laws include a measure that prevent the NYS Office of Children and Families from posting the home address or personal information of day care providers on the Internet; a proposal that provided over $400 million in federal funding for the repair of NYCHA buildings, and a law that prohibits employers from discriminating in the granting of funeral or bereavement leave to its employees who are in a committed same-sex relationship. Also, in 2012, Senator Montgomery sponsored a law to support New York’s primary industry, agriculture, by requiring the State’s Procurement Council to include a member of a non-profit organization that represents New York’s farming communities.

Standing Committee Assignments 2013:

Ranking Democrat, Children and Families; Agriculture; Crime Victims, Crime and Correction; Education; Finance; Health; Rules.

Lourdes Zapata, Chief Diversity Officer, Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

In February of 2018, Lourdes Zapata was appointed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo as Chief Diversity Officer for the State of New York where she supports the Governor’s programs and initiatives to increase diversity within the State workforce and engages in policy and program development to increase the participation of women and people of color in all areas of State government.

Prior to her appointment, she served the State as Executive Vice President of the Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development at Empire State Development (ESD). Her responsibilities included the development and oversight of statewide MWBE procurement policy as required by Article 15A of the Executive Law - reflective of New York State Governor Cuomo’s priority to promote equality of economic opportunities for Minority and Women Business Enterprises (MWBEs) and to eliminate barriers to their participation in obtaining State contracts. She oversaw the Division’s certification, compliance and business development activities, and worked with State Commissioners and the Legislature on matters affecting the MWBE community.

Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, Ms. Zapata is dedicated to efforts to achieve the Governor’s goals, and is committed to ensuring that minorities and women have their fair share of employment, engagement and contracting opportunities with the State.

Prior to joining the administration, Ms. Zapata served as Senior Vice President for Community & Economic Development at the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBRO). She also previously served as Community Development Director for the City of Newburgh in Orange County, New York.

Destito

RoAnn Destito, Commissioner, NYS Office of General Services

In May 2011, the New York State Senate unanimously confirmed Governor Cuomo’s nomination of RoAnn M. Destito as Commissioner of the Office of General Services.  Citing her experience as a 19-year member of the New York State Assembly, Cuomo stated, “Commissioner Destito will play a crucial role in modernizing our state operations and helping to restore performance to state government.  She will use her wealth of experience, business acumen, and good judgment to cut costs throughout government and deliver more for the people of New York.”

Commissioner Destito is leading transformational changes at the Office of General Services as it implements programs in support of Governor Cuomo's vision to change the way government does business and make it more effective, efficient, and responsive to the needs of citizens. Destito is intensifying OGS' focus on procuring services and commodities at best value and maximizing the use of state-owned and leased office space. 

As a longstanding public servant, Destito is committed to Governor Cuomo's call to restore public trust and create a government that New York can be proud of. 

From Rome, New York, Destito was elected to represent the 116th Assembly district (Oneida County) in 1992. During her time in the Assembly, she worked to advance and strengthen the state's procurement practices, opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses, and support for military families.

Beginning in 2001, Destito served as chairwoman of the Assembly Standing Committee on Governmental Operations, which provides legislative and budget oversight to the Office of General Services.  Her experience on this committee gave Destito the unique opportunity to work with OGS on legislation related to procurement lobbying, energy policy, emergency contracting, and leasing transactions.   

Commissioner Destito holds a degree in Industrial Relations from LeMoyne College.  Prior to her election to the Assembly, she worked at the Muscular Dystrophy Association, SUNY College of Technology, and was president of the YWCA of the Mohawk Valley.  Destito is the first woman to be confirmed as OGS Commissioner

Laura E. Free

Laura E. Free, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Laura E. Free is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. She received a B.A. in Political Science from Grinnell College, an M.A. in Women’s History from Binghamton University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in American History from Cornell University, where her dissertation won the Messenger-Chalmers prize for the best dissertation in the “field of human progress and the evolution of civilization.” Her first book, Suffrage Reconstructed: Gender, Race, and Voting Rights in the Civil War Era (Cornell University Press, 2015) combines gender analysis and political history to examine the debate over enfranchisement in the immediate post-war period. It argues that Congressmen used ideas about gender and manhood to justify granting black men the right to vote after the war, prompting some woman suffrage activists, most notably Elizabeth Cady Stanton, to adopt racism to argue for white women’s enfranchisement. Her current book project, tentatively titled Swear: An American History of Oath-making, Oath-taking, and Oath-breaking, will explore the ways that loyalty oaths were used throughout American history to define the limits of the polity, to determine who was a legitimate participant in the American democracy, and to measure Americans’ commitment to specific political and ideological regimes. Free has served as a member of the Board of Trustees for Humanities New York since 2016.

Damalia Wynter

Damali Wynter, Sr. Business Development and Strategic Contracts Specialist, New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

As Sr. Business Development and Strategic Contracts Specialist, Damali Wynter oversees challenges bridging private sector investment with partnership opportunities within New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (“State Parks”). In this role, she leads long-term development and specialty projects concerning the Agency’s most significant and sensitive concessions, including those at Niagara Falls, Jones Beach, and Bethpage State Parks. Her projects play a key role in generating millions in revenue and private capital investment complementing Governor Cuomo’s “NY Parks 2020” initiative, a multi-year commitment to revitalize the state park system. Under her management, proposal guidelines for New York’s Resident-Curator Program were developed, presenting an opportunity for public participation in the preservation of Susan B. Anthony’s childhood home in Washington County, NY.

Damali’s portfolio of collaborations include developing multiple innovative approaches for new outdoor recreation opportunities and enhancing destination sites for patrons across New York State – all long-term projects intending to boost local economies and increase opportunities for traditionally smaller businesses enterprises. Her responsibilities include administration of strict government contract processes, strategic negotiation, expansion of solicitation efforts, and maintenance of business relationships with concessionaires.

She entered New York State service as an Excelsior Fellow with over ten years of leadership experience in the education and private sectors in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. She applies her professional skillset of complex project manegment, situational analysis, and business acumen to problem-solving and generally getting things done. From her experiences developing new programs to thoughtful management as former Board Member and Director in public service organizations, Damali maintains a highly-valued bird’s eye view and ground-level perspective in decision-making.

Ms. Wynter holds an M.P.A. with policy specialization from NYU’s Wagner Graduate School for Public Service and B.S. from Syracuse University.

Waltermaurer

Eve Walter, Director of Research & Evaluation, SUNY New Paltz’s Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives

Dr. Eve Walter holds a PhD in Epidemiology from the University at Albany’s department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. She currently serves as the Director of Research & Evaluation at SUNY New Paltz’ Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives and an Associate Professor in Sociology. Dr. Walter’s personal research agenda centers primarily on women’s health and women’s status in the United States and globally. Among her publications include 15 academic papers related specifically to women’s issues including domestic violence, contraception and breastfeeding and a documentary film about women’s sexual exploration. In addition, Dr. Walter provides evaluation, research and statistical consultancy for a number of community based, health and governmental agencies, retained by a large federally designated primary care health institute and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (OASAS) to assist in defining research agendas, refining methodology, and disseminating information. Dr. Walter is the principal researcher responsible for the Women at Work VOW (View on Women) poll for New York to be disseminated in 2017 in association with the New York State Centennial of Women’s Suffrage.

Lotz

Christina Lotz, Representative of the Assembly Minority

Christina Lotz was appointed to the position of Seneca County Clerk by Governor Pataki in May of 1996. She ran her first campaign that same year and was successful with a win in November of 1996. She is so proud to be the first woman elected to the position of Seneca County Clerk. She is just finishing her fifth term, and is looking forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Seneca County.

Ms. Lotz has lived in Seneca County her entire life, and has raised her children in the Town of Seneca Falls, with her husband Gerald Drake.

Lemak

Jennifer Lemak, Representative of the NYS Education Department

Jennifer Lemak is the Chief Curator of History at the New York State Museum.  Prior to this appointment she served there as Senior Historian/Curator of Social History.  In 2012, she curated the New York State Museum’s exhibition and catalog, An Irrepressible Conflict: the Empire State in the Civil War and has written on the Civil War Centennial in New York State. Lemak is the author of Southern Life, Northern City: The History of Albany’s Rapp Road (SUNY Press, 2008) and several articles on the Great Migration to Upstate New York.  Her current projects include curating the Votes for Women exhibition at the New York State Museum.  Lemak also serves as the Commissioner of Education’s representative on the New York State Board for Historic Preservation and serves on the advisory board of the University at Albany’s Center for Applied Historical Research. She earned her MA in Public History and PhD in American History from the University at Albany. In 2014, she was admitted to the New York Academy of History.

Zimet

Susan Zimet, President, 2020: Project Women

Susan Zimet is the Founder and President of 2020: Project Women, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, celebrating, and promoting the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote. As a former Ulster County Legislature and Town Supervisor of New Paltz, Zimet decided that there was not enough attention being paid to this historic upcoming centennial anniversary and specifically the suffragists who had fought so hard to make holding such offices possible to women. With this in mind, and in partnership with the Susan B. Anthony House and Museum, Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, the Gage Home and the AAUW, 2020: Project Women was founded in 2008.

Susan's book Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story Of The Women's Right To Vote was published to critical acclaim in January 2016 by Viking Publishing/Random House. The book has received rave reviews by the NY Times, Chicago Tribune, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and other education reviewers. NCSS awarded Roses and Radicals one of the 2019 notable trade books and many educational and parent groups also gave starred reviews.

Susan held elected office, representing New Paltz as either its Town Supervisor or Ulster County Legislature from 1996 through 2015. During this time, Susan became a leading spokesperson and advocate for the issues she believes in, including women’s rights, property tax reform, protecting the environment and opposing hydro-fracking. In fact, in 2013, Susan helped found an organization called Frack Action and was an executive producer on a series of commercials lobbying against the dangerous practice, starring high-powered actors Ethan Hawke, Mark Ruffalo and others.

Susan also is the co-author of The Great Cover-Up: A Condom Compendium, the first book written on the subject of safe sex during the HIV and AIDS epidemic, published in 1989. During this time, she also served as an adjunct professor at SUNY New Paltz, teaching Advertising and Marketing courses and overseeing the colleges international marketing internship program.

Prior to that, Susan served as VP, Associate Media Director at Grey Advertising, overseeing many blue-chip clients including General Foods and Timex.

Susan is a mother of two and lives with her husband, Steve in Athens, NY.

Wagner

Sally Roesch Wagner, Executive Director, The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation

Awarded one of the first doctorates in the country for work in women’s studies (UC Santa Cruz) and a founder of one the first college-level women’s studies programs in the United States (CSU Sacramento), Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner has taught women’s studies courses for 50 years. She edited the intersectional anthology, The Women’s Suffrage Movement (Penguin Classics, 2019) and currently serves as an adjunct faculty member in The Renée Crown University Honors Program, Syracuse University and the St. John Fisher Executive Leadership Program.

She wrote the faculty guide for Not for Ourselves Alone, Ken Burns’ documentary on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and has appeared in that film and numerous history films and radio programs. Dr. Wagner was selected as one of “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” by Women’s E-News in 2015. She serves on the New York Suffrage Centennial Commission.

Founder and Executive Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center for Social Justice Dialogue in Fayetteville, New York, she received the Katherine Coffey Award for outstanding service to museology from the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums in 2012.

Hughes

Deborah Hughes, President & CEO, The National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House

Deborah L Hughes became President & CEO of the National Susan B Anthony Museum & House in 2007. During her tenure, the Anthony Museum has grown museum attendance 157%, completed a major phase of restoration to the National Historic Landmark, secured its Absolute Charter as a Museum, and increased annual revenue 400%. Hughes holds a Bachelor of Science in world religion and church history from the University of Oregon, Eugene, and a Masters of Divinity from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester.  She is an ordained minister, and has served churches in Michigan and New York. For eight years, she was on the executive staff of the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board of American Baptist Churches in NY, NY, administering death, disability, and pension benefits and leading seminars on retirement planning. She holds a Certificate in Fundraising Management from Indiana University/Purdue, and was the Vice President for Development at Colgate Rochester Crozer. 

Thompson

Dare Thompson, President of the League of Women Voters of New York State

I am serving on the Commission as President of the League of Women Voters of New York State. The League of Women Voters of the U.S. is the living legacy of the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. since the LWV was created within the National American Woman Suffrage Association. I have been an active League volunteer since 1972, serving as president in Rhode Island, vice president in Ohio, and now president here.  I have also been local president of chapters in Swarthmore, PA; Utica-Rome, NY; Delaware, OH; and most recently the Mid-Hudson Region in NY.

I am also connected to women’s suffrage as a Quaker who graduated from Swarthmore College where Lucretia Mott was a founder and Alice Paul was a graduate. I am Assistant Clerk of the Poughkeepsie Friends Meeting and an active leader in the New York Yearly Meeting.

I also have a Masters in Teaching from Oberlin College and started my career as a teacher. Since the 1980s I have been the executive director of three arts organizations.

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