(Photo Courtesy of Leader Pelosi’s Website)
Congratulations to our alumna sister, Nancy Pelosi, Class of ’62, who was inducted on Saturday into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. Congresswoman, Speaker of the House, Democratic Leader, community activist, mother and grandmother — throughout her illustrious career, Nancy Pelosi has been a tireless champion for women’s rights and human rights, for healthcare and child care, equal pay and relief of poverty. Her remarks at the induction ceremony were both a reminder of her many achievements for women and a statement of the challenging agenda that remains to be fulfilled.
The National Women’s Hall of Fame was created in 1969 in Seneca Falls, a place widely regarded as the birthplace of the Women’s Rights Movement. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott led the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in 1848. The Women’s Hall of Fame includes such luminaries of the women’s rights movement as Susan B. Anthony, Bette Friedan, Billie Jean King and Gloria Steinem; civil rights heroes like Coretta Scott King, Harriet Tubman, Shirley Chisolm and Sojourner Truth; and accomplished women leaders from Oprah Winfrey to Sandra Day O’Connor to Sally Ride to Lilly Ledbetter and many others. Visit the National Women’s Hall of Fame website to see the full list and read the biographies of great women of achievement, leadership and service to our society.
Nine great women were inducted on October 12, including:
- Former First Lady Betty Ford whose courage in battling addiction and breast cancer brought necessary sunshine to those issues
- Ina May Gaskin whose work in midwifery has earned her worldwide acclaim
- Julie Krone, the most accomplished female jockey of all time
- Kate Millet, influential feminist writer
- Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, first woman Speaker of the House
- Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, MM, founder of the Maryknoll Sisters
- Bernice Resnick Sandler, champion of educational equality and leader of the Title IX movement
- Anna Jacobson Schwartz, leading economic theorist and financial historian
- Emma Hart Williard, pioneer in education for women and girls, founder of the Emma Willard School
Their biographies are all on the website of the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Reading about these great women of achievement is a stunning reminder of the hard work and great courage that made our lives possible today. At the same time, great though their achievements are, so much remains to be done. Just consider the terrible impact of the current government crisis on women and children — interruptions to assistance to families and children in need, efforts of Congress to cut food stamps, the obvious assault on access to healthcare that women who live in poverty need so very much. Comparatively few women are “at the table” — women hold just 18.3% of the seats in Congress, just 20% of the Senate, even though we are more than half of the population.
Accepting her award on Saturday, Nancy Pelosi invited many of those courageous few women to join her on the stage — Congresswomen Louise Slaughter, Rosa DeLauro, Nita Lowey, Carolyn Maloney, Nydia Velaquez, Donna Edwards, Doris Matsui, Anita Echoo, Barbara Lee and many others. But these women, passionate as they are, form but a small caucus in a Congress that seems increasingly hostile to basic human decency, let alone a Congress that will enact policies that favor the most vulnerable people in our society.
The women’s revolution is far from over, and the current political conditions in Washington tell us that many of the advances of the last half century are in danger of serious regression. As we cheer for our sister alumna, we also need to reaffirm the importance of advocacy for women’s rights and equality, for laws and policies that protect women and their families from the corrosive harm of discrimination, poverty and abuse. 165 years after Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony and all of those progressive women of the 19th Century spawned a revolution, the rights of women still cannot be taken for granted.