Seven top Democratic women and one man spoke at a Women’s Vote rally at Barnard College on November 3. All but one were New York elected officials. Many were “firsts” in their jobs. The sheer number of women officials was historic by itself. This rally illustrated that having many women leaders is almost normal. Not quite. But we’re getting there.
Barnard College is right across Broadway from Columbia University. It was established in 1889 as a private liberal arts women’s college because Columbia University wouldn’t admit women students. Columbia changed that policy in 1983. Barnard became one of its four undergraduate colleges, but has its own endowment and leadership. It has not relinquished its identity as a school dedicated to empowering women.
The rally was held on an oval dance floor with a stage across the broad side. There were no chairs. Metal barricades kept the crowd ten feet from the stage.
The first speaker was Rep. Nydia Velazquez, whose 7th Congressional District includes a bit of lower Manhattan, and parts of Brooklyn and Queens. First elected in 1992, she was the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins came next. Elected from Westchester County, just north of New York City, she is the first woman and the first Black to be Senate Majority leader. She also served twice as Acting Lt. Governor. The first time was when Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned on August 24, 2021 boosting Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul to the top job. The second time was when the man appointed by Gov. Hochul as Lt. Gov. resigned on April 12, 2022 after being arrested for corruption.
She was followed by New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Eadie Adams. In 2021, New York City voters elected more women than men to the City Council. They chose Eadie Adams of Queens as their leader in January of 2022. She is the third woman and the first Black person to serve as Speaker. She shares with VP Kalama Harris her membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first sorority for Black college-educated women.
Senator Chuck Schumer was a bit of a surprise, since this was advertised as a women’s rally, but… he is the Senate Majority leader and wants to keep his job. The fact that he was campaigning for Hochul in NYC rather than in Pennsylvania where there is a close Senate election is testimony to the importance of electing Hochul to a full term. Hochul described Chuck as a man who “gets it” when it comes to women.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney was the only speaker who is retiring at the end of the year, but not voluntarily. After the Census cost New York one Congressional District, the New York courts assigned a special master to redraw the districts. Maloney was put into the same district as Congressman Jerry Nadler, another liberal feminist. She lost the Democratic primary. Nadler will represent the new 10th C.D. Even though he “gets it” even more than Sen. Schumer, he wasn’t invited to the rally.
NY Attorney General Tish James is another double first: the first woman and the first Black person to be elected to this particular state office. Her job before that was New York City Public Advocate, where she was the first Black woman to be elected to any citywide office.
All of the early birds were dynamic speakers, but they just were the warm-up act. Leading the final three was the most famous woman in American politics: Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be nominated by the Democratic Party for President. Clinton was also New York’s first woman Senator and still lives in the state.
Governor Kathy Hochul was the star attraction. This rally was for her. She told all the women in the room to text their friends, knock and doors, and turn out to vote.
The rally started a little after 4:30 when two young women from Columbia University College Democrats took the stage. One talked about the thrill of getting a phone call that morning that Vice President Kamala Harris would be joining the event they had carefully planned at Barnard College.
Her presence almost caused Hochul to fade into the background.
After the three headliners spoke, they posed for a threesome.
Hillary and Hochul left the stage. Harris descended to the floor and did a rope walk, shaking hands, greeting people, and pausing for selfies.
I shot Kathy Hochul as she worked her way down the line. I held onto the barricade with my left hand to avoid being knocked off my feet by the students pushing and shoving to greet her and get selfies. Kamala Harris grabbed that hand as she went by and I clicked the shutter. My hand at the bottom of this photo is the closest I’ve come to taking a selfie with a celebrity.
Jo Freeman is a feminist scholar and author.
Jo has finished her book Tell It Like It Is: Living History in the Southern Civil Rights Movement, 1965-66, and is looking for a publisher.
Copyright ©2022 Jo Freeman.