In the 2014 general election, fewer than half of women exercised their right to vote in a contest that elected the entire U.S. House of Representatives and a third of the U.S. Senate, as well as many state-level officials. Overall, voter turnout in the United States was estimated at 36.7% — the lowest since World War II. Only 21.5% of young people ages 18-24 took part in the 2014 election. If decisions are made by those who show up, young women need to take note and understand how to make their voices heard.
On Thursday, April 5, 200 girls from the greater Hartford region traveled to Hartford to attend the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame (CWHF) second annual Girls Day at the Capitol, a forum for young women in grades eight through 12 to explore the stories of the Connecticut women who fought to secure their right to vote, hear from high-level women in government, discuss the issues most important to them, and learn about the legislative process and how they can use their own voices to address 21st-Century challenges. Through the day’s sessions, participants explored avenues of civic engagement such as voting, grassroots advocacy, and elected office. They left with a better understanding of their past and its connection to the present as well as inspiration to take an active role in shaping their future.
Thanks to funding from the William & Alice Mortensen Foundation, the CWHF doubled the number of attendees over last year’s program. Participating schools were HALS Academy, CREC Metropolitan Learning Center, HPHS Law and Government Academy, Classical Magnet School, Grace Academy, New Britain High School, CREC PSA Civic Leadership High School, and Renzulli Academy.
“As our state’s premier resource for women’s history, the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame honors and preserves the stories of Connecticut’s most remarkable women,” said CWHF executive director Sarah Lubarsky. “And we use those stories to educate and inspire the next generation. We love helping young women find their voices.”
Following welcoming remarks from Sen. Beth Bye (D-5) and Avon High School student and Political and Proud founder Anna Szekeres, the program featured a “Powerful Voices” panel intended to introduce students to female leaders across the state as well as highlight the opportunities and challenges faced by women in a historically male-dominated field. Moderated by Las Lomas Inc. President Geena Clonan, the panel included House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-114), Sen. Marilyn Moore (D-22), Rep. Kim Rose (D-118), Hartford City Council President Glendowlyn Thames, and Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey (D-133).
After the panel discussion, students attended two breakout sessions: “Connecticut Women Changing Democracy” and “Advocacy and Organizing.” Advocates facilitating breakout sessions were Ingrid Alvarez-DiMarzo of the Hispanic Federation of Connecticut, Sarah Fox of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, Allison Gamber of the Epilepsy Foundation of Connecticut, Camara Stokes Hudson and Stephanie Luczak of Connecticut Voices for Children, Kaley Lentini of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, Geralynn McGee of Greater Hartford Legal Aid, and Laura McMillan of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment.
The day concluded with a talk by Patricia Russo, executive director of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale. Before boarding buses to travel back to their hometowns, the students pledged to stay informed, use their voices to speak up for change, and — most importantly — vote when they are old enough to do so.
About the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame
The mission of the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame is to honor publicly the achievements of Connecticut women, preserve their stories, educate the public, and inspire the continued achievements of women and girls. Founded in 1994 in Hartford, the CWHF is a provider of innovative educational programs and tools that inspire women and girls to believe in their unlimited potential. The CWHF’s 119 inductees are role models for women of all ages, and their stories are proof of all that women can accomplish. Leveraging those powerful stories, the CWHF makes history relevant through programs for educators, multimedia presentations, and traveling exhibits offered free of charge. The CWHF’s work fosters the courage and confidence women need to overcome barriers and advocate on their own behalf. Each year through the CWHF’s initiatives, 50,000 women and girls see what’s possible and become empowered to take an active role in shaping their future. The CWHF website, www.cwhf.org, is a “Virtual Hall” where visitors can explore all that CWHF has to offer. To join CWHF via social media, find and like ctwomen on Facebook and follow @ctwomen on Twitter.