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January 2, 2014

Essex County praises women leaders

ELIZABETHTOWN — Although this year will mark the first in 34 years that no women serve on the Essex County Board of Supervisors, the next one will get to sit in a historic chair.

The Essex County general election in November saw the removal of all four women on the board against male opponents.

But this week, the Inez Milholland Chair was dedicated by those four outgoing lawmakers, and it will be sitting in the Old County Courthouse at Elizabethtown, waiting for the next woman elected to the Board of Supervisors.

TIRELESS CRUSADER

A Lewis resident, Milholland fought for women’s rights, especially the right to vote, in the early 1900s.

“She worked tirelessly for the cause of American women,” outgoing Supervisor Margaret Bartley (D-Elizabethtown) said during the ceremony.

“In 1916, while delivering a speech in Los Angeles, she fell ill and died a few weeks later at the age of 30.”

She said Milholland’s body was returned to her home at Meadowmount Farm in Lewis. She was buried in Lewis Cemetery with more than 2,000 people in attendance.

“Four years after her (Milholland’s) death, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1920, giving American women the right to vote,” Bartley said.

“It took another 60 years, in 1980, before a woman became a member of the Essex County Board of Supervisors.”

In 1980, Florence Hathaway of Willsboro and Mildred Dobie of North Hudson were the first women on the board, followed by Joyce Morency of St. Armand in 1981.

NO SAY

Bartley said that on Sept. 19, 1911, Milholland addressed the Essex County Board of Supervisors on women’s rights. The supervisor read Milholland’s remarks aloud.

“Women have the same interests as men: in clean government, good roads and sound education,” Milholland told lawmakers in 1911. “Yet they have nothing whatever to say about the laws. These questions are handled by a (state) legislature, which pays no attention to the wants, the needs or the voice of women.”

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