Political women inspire youth

For years, elements of the youth-serving community employed problem- or deficient-focused models in dealing with many youth and families. Given the nominal effectiveness of these approaches, many youth serving organizations have, for some time now, shifted their focus to "strength based" strategies.

Most historians agree at the penning of the U.S. Constitution, the rights of women were given little or no consideration. Women could not vote, own property or enter into contracts in most states, and were largely viewed as chattel. The prevailing wisdom held women's lilliputian view of the world left them emotionally unsound and incapable of voting.

In 1848, women met in Seneca Falls to launch women's suffrage. Women seized the opportunity to press their issue when African American men were granted voting rights at the zenith of the civil war. Because African American men were dispossessed of almost any right except voting, women argued they should be afforded the same rights. Seventy-two years after the first Seneca Falls meeting, women were granted the vote under the 19th Amendment.

Women are now among the top academic performers in high school and college. By 2014, 58 percent of all college students will be female. Gender parity has been achieved in many professions, such as law and medicine, but the political realm remains disparate.

A few oligarchally connected women occupy prominent, national, political positions. In 1979, thee percent of Congress was female. By 2007, 16 percent of Congress was female. In New York, 24.6 percent of the Assembly is female while 16.4 percent of the Senate is female. On the county level, 17 percent of town supervisors and legislators are female, notable exceptions are Dutchess County 40 percent and Westchester County 35.29 percent.

Essex County has three female supervisors including the current chairman of the board, Cathy Moses. Essex County is fortunate two exemplary women occupy prominent political positions in Albany. Sen. Elizabeth Little and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward are powerful role models for Essex County youth and that influence may be felt most keenly by young girls.

While they go about their jobs, these women are leading by example and they are creating a new dream and a new possibility for youth that look to them for inspiration. We must have role models like Little and Sayward who have demonstrated women can and must have a leadership role in the political workings of government.

Remember all kids count.

Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at hurlburt@wildblue.net.

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