SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – When Kamala Harris is sworn in today as the nation’s first female vice president, it’s a milestone that will not go unnoticed in central New York. It’s a day that Sally Roesch Wagner, a women’s suffrage movement historian and founder of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation in Fayetteville, has been waiting for, for a long time. Though, Wagner said it’s been a much longer wait for Gage, who was a 19th century suffragist.
“I think she would say, ‘Finally. What took you this long? In 1884, I was an elector at large in the Equal Rights Party ticket when we had a woman for president and a woman for vice president and the media said we were the campaign that was raising the most issues. It’s taken you this long to get a vice president and you’ve never had a woman president?’” Wagner said. “She hounds me with her anger and frustration, even from the grave.”
Wagner, who is part of a project with the National Women’s Political Caucus to encourage the appointment of more women in government positions, said it’s not only Harris’ achievement that is noteworthy. If confirmed, President Joe Biden’s cabinet would have a record number of women. Wagner said important breakthroughs like these set an important precedent for young women, such as those the Gage Foundation tutors.
“There will be a generation that won’t know any different,” Wagner said. “It will be – this is not just something that’s a fluke. This is the standard. The next president is not going to be able to go back.”
Harris’ achievement comes four years after the 2017 Women’s March, a protest of the then-incoming Trump administration that is considered the largest demonstration of its kind in U.S. history. Susan Scheuerman, an organizer of the annual Women March in Seneca Falls, said the election of Harris is the culmination of years of activism.
“We are more delighted than we can even think about that in four years, through our efforts, in 2020, which was our fourth march and the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, our activism to tell people to get out and vote, particularly women, has paid off,” Scheuerman said.
But, Schuereman said the work isn’t done yet. Her group is now advocating for the Biden-Harris administration to tackle issues like health inequity, systemic racism, and gender inequity.
“Tomorrow, we will exhale a bit, but not completely – not until women are regarded on the same level as men when competing for office, when taking their place at the table,” Scheuerman said. “We can’t let it all out yet, but I think one day we will. I think it’s coming too.”