This weekend Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in historic Seneca Falls, New York.
The National Women’s Hall of Fame, which is located in the heart of the US Women’s Movement in Seneca Falls, recognized Smeal and nine other women for their achievements. Smeal was introduced in the induction ceremony by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a long-time champion of women’s rights. “Ellie has worked non-stop for women’s equality,” Maloney said, recalling the many issues Maloney and Smeal have worked on together. “Women united shall never be defeated,” Maloney concluded.
Smeal’s acceptance speech reflected on a lifetime of activism and support from her family. She remembered her mother’s indignation when a high school advisor suggested she attend secretarial college. She thanked her brother Edward Cutri for including her, even as a child, in typically “male” activities like baseball or playing the drums. Smeal talked about bringing her children to rallies and protests when they were young. “We didn’t go to the zoo,” she joked.
Smeal’s many accomplishments have positively affected women and men across the country, but she made a call to action for the progress that is still needed for women’s equality. Smeal specifically mentioned the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls. “We cannot forget the women of Afghanistan and around the world,” she said. “They may be threatened, they may be beaten or killed, but they fight every day for their rights.”
Smeal also called for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that was just three states shy of being ratified in 1982. ““We’re running out of time- we have to pass the ERA for the next generation,” she said, joining activists attending the induction ceremony as they erupted into chants of “ERA NOW!”
Fellow inductee Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, and Lilly Ledbetter, women’s rights activist who spurred the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, both voiced their support for a national ERA.
At a press conference yesterday Smeal and National Organization of Women President Terry O’Neill spoke specifically about the ERA, calling for renewed action. They explained that putting women into the United States Constitution would federally guarantee equal pay and protect women’s ability to make healthcare decisions. A national ERA would also give constitutional basis for legislation that would secure women’s equality going forward, such as the Violence Against Women Act.
Smeal was one of 10 great women inducted this fall. The women joined 247 past inductees, including Ms. Magazine co-founder Gloria Steinem, and Feminist Majority Foundation board member Dolores Huerta.
Media Resources: National Women’s Hall of Fame 2015 video; ERA Feminist Campus Fact Sheet; Democrat and Chronicle 10/4/15; National Women’s Hall of Fame website;