Image of the New York's Past Present and Future Exhibition in the New York State Capitol

New York's Past Present Future

Exhibition on view in the New York State Capitol
New York's Past | Present | Future

Exhibition on View
New York State Capitol
Governor's Reception Room, 2nd Floor
Monday - Friday
7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.


The path that history takes is dynamic, constantly shifting in response to the decisions and actions, both large and small, that people make every day. The men and women featured in this exhibition did not set out to make history. They set out to make a change - to make a difference - in society. They could not have known at the time what their actions would set into motion or how they would change the course of history in New York State.

Like the trailblazers of our past, the inauguration of the first woman elected to serve as Governor of the State of New York, shifts the path of history and sets into motion endless possibilities for the future. History has to start somewhere. So why not here and why not now with all of us?

Harriet Tubman

(circa 1819-1913)

Born a slave named Araminta “Minty” Ross in Dorchester County, Maryland, Harriet Tubman crossed “the line”– referring to the Mason Dixon – via the Underground Railroad. Also known as “Moses to her people,” Tubman was later a “conductor” on the railroad, helping to guide as many
as 300 slaves to freedom.

After the Emancipation Proclamation, Tubman returned to her home in Auburn, NY until the end of her life.
Black and white image of Harriet Tubman

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

(circa 1815-1902)

Elizabeth Cady Stanton became aware of the different opportunities for boys and girls by spending time in her father’s law office.

Stanton’s eyes were opened to the world of reform in the home of her cousin, Gerrit Smith, an antislavery reformer. There she met Henry Stanton, in 1839, and the couple travelled to the World Anti-Slavery Convention on their honeymoon in 1840. Stanton saw the treatment of women at the convention as unfair, and turned her anger into her
life-long work for the cause of women’s rights.

Her daughter Harriot Stanton Blatch (1856-1940) helped to revolutionize and shape New York State’s suffrage movement from a 19th century movement of upper class, white women to a modern 20th century reform movement involving women from all classes and ethnic backgrounds.
Black and white image of Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Sojourner Truth

(circa 1797-1883)

Isabella Baumfree, later changing her name to Sojourner Truth, was born enslaved in Dutch-speaking Ulster County, New York in 1797. After her escape from slavery in 1827, Truth challenged prevailing notions of racial inequality and gender inferiority, and became an outspoken advocate for abolition, temperance, and civil and women’s rights in the 19th century. At the Women’s Rights Convention of 1851 in Akron, Ohio, Sojourner Truth presented her most famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?”.
Image of Sojourner Truth

Matilda Joslyn Gage

(circa 1826–1898)

Matilda Joslyn Gage entered the women’s rights movement with a speech at the 1852 National Women’s Rights Convention. Though not anticipated on the program, hers was the only speech of the convention to be reprinted in the paper, with her call to “Let Syracuse sustain her name for radicalism.” Gage was close with her Native American neighbors, and was adopted by the Haudenosaunee into the Wolf Clan: “I received the name of Ka-ron-ien-ha-wi, or ‘Sky Carrier,’ or She who holds the sky.” While working with the Haudenosaunee, she observed a culture with a vastly different view toward women than her own. Gage and Stanton both wrote of a more equal division of power and labor in Haudenosaunee society, of women’s roles in choosing clan leaders, and of the matrilineal organization of Haudenosaunee families.
Black and white image of Matilda Joslyn Gage

Frederick Douglass

(circa 1818–1895)

A powerful orator and writer, Douglass escaped slavery to become an internationally- known abolitionist, as well as a dedicated advocate for women’s rights. Born a slave in Maryland, Douglass cobbled together an education, which he viewed as essential to becoming free. Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838 and in 1841 began lecturing and writing as an abolitionist.

Douglass settled in Rochester, N.Y., home to an active female anti-slavery society. At the 1848 Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, Douglass played a critical role by helping Elizabeth Cady Stanton secure passage for the controversial resolution calling for the vote for women. A frequent speaker at women’s rights conventions, Douglass used his newspaper, The North Star, to inform the public of the women’s rights movement, including by publishing the slogan, “Right is of No Sex,” in every issue. At his death in 1895, Stanton wrote, “He was the only man I ever saw who understood the degradation of the disenfranchisement of women.”
Black and white image of Frederick Douglass

Susan B. Anthony

(circa 1820–1906)

Susan B. Anthony was a leading figure of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Anthony was born in 1820 to a Hicksite Quaker family that eventually settled in Rochester, the city Anthony called home for most of her life. The Anthony’s were involved in anti-slavery reform, hosting meetings at their farmhouse and attending conventions.

Through her work as a teacher, Anthony quickly became aware of the wage gap between men and women in the profession. She became involved in women’s rights soon after meeting Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851, and eventually put her other reform work to the side to devote her life to the fight for women’s suffrage.
Image of Susan B. Anthony

Harriet May Mills

(circa 1857–1935)

Harriet May Mills dedicated her life to women’s suffrage and activism. Mills worked across the state in support of the constitutional campaign and served as secretary, vice president, and president of the NYS Woman Suffrage Association. She campaigned for a suffrage amendment, giving lectures and organizing meetings nationwide.

After women gained the vote, she became active in the Democratic Party. In 1920, she was the first woman to run for a statewide elective office, Secretary of State, on the ticket with Alfred E. Smith. They lost the election, but Mills went on to support him and the Democratic Party in later elections. She campaigned with Franklin Roosevelt to specifically address women voters when he campaigned for governor. In 1932, Mills was a member of the Electoral College that sent Franklin D. Roosevelt to the White House.
Black and white image of Harriet May Mills

Sarah Jane Smith Thompson Garnet

(circa 1831–1911)

The first African American woman appointed school principal in New York City, Garnet was also a pioneer in the suffrage movement, founding the first black suffrage league in New York City to advocate for women of color voting. Her father was one of the founding owners of Weeksville, an all-black residential community. As a property owner, he was able to vote, meeting New York’s existing $250 property requirement for black male voters.

At 14, Garnet began working as a teacher’s assistant, and went on to be hired as a teacher at the African Free School of Williamsburg, and was eventually appointed principal in the New York public school system. During her career, she fought racial discrimination against African American teachers by advocating for equal pay for equal work and removing racial barriers to teacher assignments, once testifying before the legislature in Albany.

In the late 1880s, Garnet founded the Brooklyn suffrage organization, Equal Suffrage League, holding meetings in her home. She later served as the superintendent of suffrage for the National Association of Colored Women.
Image of Sarah Jane Smith Thompson Garnet

Elizabeth And Anne Miller

(circa 1822-1911; 1856-1912)

Elizabeth Smith Miller (1822- 1911) advocated for women’s rights long before it was socially acceptable. Her daughter, Anne (1856-1912), soon served the cause as well, making her first public speech for equal suffrage at the New York State Constitutional Convention in 1894.

In 1897, the Millers established the Geneva Political Equality Club. By 1907, it was the largest in the state with 362 members. The Club remained active until 1917 when New York State passed the equal suffrage amendment.
Image of Elizabeth And Anne Miller

Carrie Chapman Catt

(circa 1859–1947)

Carrie Chapman Catt was one of the key organizers for women’s suffrage in New York State and at the national level. She grew-up in Iowa where she worked as a teacher to pay for her college tuition. She became interested in suffrage, establishing Political Equality Clubs and serving as the state’s group organizer and secretary. Catt became involved with NAWSA at both the state and national levels.

Susan B. Anthony took notice of her organizational and public speaking skills and tapped Catt to succeed her as president of the NAWSA in 1900. After one term in office, she stepped down to care for her ailing second husband. Catt travelled internationally on behalf of women suffrage and then settled in New York City where she became active at the local level. In 1907, she formed the Interurban Suffrage Council which brought together most of the suffrage groups in the City under one umbrella organization.

This organization served as the model for Catt’s New York City Woman Suffrage Party which she organized in 1909. The Woman Suffrage Party was the basis for the Empire State Campaign Committee, which launched the unsuccessful campaign for a state constitutional amendment in 1915. This same year Catt returned as president of the NAWSA with what she called the Winning Plan to secure the vote in New York State and in turn, use New York’s win to propel the federal amendment forward.
Black and white image of Carrie Chapman Catt

Mabel Ping-Hua Lee

(circa 1896–1966)

In 1905, Mabel Ping-Hua Lee moved to Chinatown in New York City. At the age of 16, she led suffragists on horseback in parades throughout the city. Mabel fought for suffrage on behalf of all women even though she would not get the chance to benefit from the cause until decades later. Women received the right to vote in the United States in 1920, but Mabel did not have the legal right to vote until 1943 due to the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Black and white image of Mabel Ping-Hua Lee

Mary Burnett Talbert

(circa 1866-1923)

A leading advocate for civil rights, Talbert also served as a strong, distinct voice for African-American women, continuously working to secure the vote as a means of improving their lives.

A teacher for high schoolers and college students, she became assistant principal in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1887, holding, at that time, the highest position by a woman in the state. Talbert moved to Buffalo a few years later with her husband and became active in groups that spearheaded change for African Americans and women. Her emphasis on equal rights and suffrage for all women, regardless of their race, would become a hallmark of her work. Talbert helped establish the Niagara Movement, a pre- cursor to the NAACP, and later served as president of The Buffalo History Museum the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. She maintained a focus throughout her career on fighting the “two-fold” discrimination.
Black and white image of Mary Burnett Talbert

Frances Perkins


Frances Perkins pledged her career to creating safer workplaces after witnessing how unsafe working conditions affected the morale and physical health of women workers.

After seeing first-hand, the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire that killed 146 workers in 1911, Perkins championed tirelessly for increased governmental oversight of factories and better labor conditions. She became the first woman to hold a cabinet position in the United States government, serving as Secretary of Labor from 1933-1945 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

As Secretary of Labor, Perkins ushered in a new attitude for the department by placing special emphasis on meeting the needs of workers. She was instrumental in crafting government policies to provide good paying jobs and economic relief during the Great Depression.
Black and white image of Frances Perkins

Governor Alfred E. Smith


Known as the “Happy Warrior,” Alfred E. Smith (1873-1944) before becoming Governor, he served in the Assembly for twelve years, and lead the body as Speaker. Combining grand vision with a streetwise popular touch, Smith made sweeping changes to the organization of state government. As a social reformer, Smith expanded support for housing, health care, and parks, and he increased education budgets. Smith was the Democratic candidate for president in 1928 and the first Catholic nominated by a major political party, but was defeated by Herbert Hoover. Later, he served as president of Empire State, Inc., which constructed and operated the Empire State Building.
Portrait of Governor Alfred E. Smith

Franklin D. Roosevelt


Franklin D. Roosevelt began his storied political career in the New York State Senate. It was in the Senate in 1912 when he first announced his support for women’s suffrage when a constitutional amendment was proposed in the Legislature. In 1928, when FDR ran for Governor of New York, his wife Eleanor Roosevelt led the NYS Democratic Party’s effort to mobilize women voters. FDR pulled off a narrow victory, winning by just 25,000 votes. Elected president in 1932, his appointment of Frances Perkins as Secretary of Labor made her the first woman to serve in a Presidential cabinet.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt


Known for her advocacy of women’s rights, civil rights, and labor unions, Eleanor Roosevelt is memorialized in history as the “First Lady of the World.” During her time as First Lady, she held a number of firsts, including the first First Lady to hold regular press conferences and to publish a syndicated newspaper column. She was first Chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and had a principal role in developing the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Black and white image of Eleanor Roosevelt

Niagara Movement Founder
W.E.B. Du Bois


In 1905, civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois issued a call “for organized determination and aggressive action on the part of men who believe in Negro freedom and growth” and convened a group of 29 activists from 14 states in Buffalo. Known as the Niagara Movement, the group subsequently met in Ontario, Canada, because hotels on the American side of the Falls barred Black customers. Four years later, movement members joined with white progressives to form the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People (NAACP) in Manhattan.
Black and white image of W.E.B. Du Bois

Ella Baker


A Virginian by birth, in 1927 Ella Baker moved to New York City and immersed herself in Harlem’s vibrant culture and politics. She became the executive director of the Young Negroes Cooperative League, organizing for the economic betterment of the Black community during the Great Depression.

In 1941, Baker joined the staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and during 16-year tenure there she transformed organization’s investment in grassroots organizing and youth development. She later accepted the position of executive secretary of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and helped mold the organization into a model of nonviolent resistance before co- founding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Baker served as a key mentor and advisor to generations of civil rights activists, working behind the scenes to guide the major successes of the civil rights movement.
Black and white image of Ella Baker

Bayard Rustin


Activist Bayard Rustin is remembered for his contributions to the civil rights movement and for organizing the March on Washington in 1963. Despite being a brilliant behind-the- scenes strategist and integral force behind the nonviolent protests, marches, and boycotts that propelled the movement forward, he was often overlooked because he was openly gay.

Rustin participated in Freedom Rides across the South and protested segregation as early as the 1940s, gaining the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to whom Rustin would become a key advisor. Rustin devoted his life to human rights across the globe. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Black and white image of Bayard Rustin

Pauli Murray


Pauli Murray was a lawyer, poet, writer, activist and, according to the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice, “the first Black person perceived as a woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest.” Murray coined the term “Jane Crow” to address the rampant racism and sexism that Black women face in America. Privately, Anne Pauline Murray did not conform to societal boundaries of gender and went by Pauli Murray. Murray was one of the founders of the National Organization for Women.
Black and white image of Pauli Murray

Shirley Chisholm


“I want to be remembered as a woman…who dared to be a catalyst of change.”

In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress. Chisholm represented the 12th Congressional District of New York centered in Brooklyn from 1969 to 1983. While working in Congress, she championed causes such as civil rights, women’s rights, and economic equality. During the 1972 presidential election, Chisholm was the first woman in history to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
Black and white image of Shirley Chisholm

Bella Azbug


“There are those who say I’m impatient, impetuous, uppity, rude, profane, brash, overbearing. Whether I’m any of these things or all of them, you can decide for yourself. But whatever I am—and this ought to be made very clear at the outset—I am a very serious woman.”- 1972

Bella Abzug was a longtime activist and proponent of equal rights for women. She grew up in New York City and became an attorney in the 1940s when few women entered this profession. In the 1960s, she became an anti-war activist, which led to a run for political office in New York City. In 1971, she made her first run and win for Congress on the Democratic ticket. Abzug was a huge supporter of the ERA, gay rights, and a founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus.
Black and white image of Bella Azbug

Gloria Steinem

(b. 1934)

“Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.”

Following her studies at Smith College, Gloria Steinem traveled in India, where her eyes were opened to political organizing and the importance of listening. Upon her return, she settled in New York City and began her journalism career with her “first serious assignment”: documenting the impact of the birth control pill on the social and professional lives of young women in “The Moral Disarmament of Betty Coed.”

As an activist, Steinem has dedicated her life to travel in order to give talks, to promote feminist causes, including the ERA, and to facilitate discussions amongst diverse groups. In the 1960s and 70s, she travelled to colleges, community centers, and other venues with speaking partners Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Margaret Sloan, and Florynce Kennedy.
Black and white image of Gloria Steinem

Betty Friedan


Betty Friedan was a lifelong activist, feminist, and writer. In 1963, she wrote "The Feminine Mystique," which was critical of the role that suburban homemakers played in society during that era. Historians believe this best-selling book led to the second wave of the women’s movement in the 1960s. Friedan co- founded the National Organization for Women, authoring NOW’s mission statement “…to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.” She would later co- found the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws and the National Women’s Political Caucus.
Black and white image of Betty Friedan

Mary Ann Krupsak

(b. 1932)

In 1974, New York State Senator Mary Ann Krupsak was elected Lieutenant Governor of New York with Governor Hugh Carey, making her the first woman elected to statewide office. Born in Schenectady to Polish- American parents, Krupsak earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester in 1953 and a master’s degree in communications from Boston University in 1955. Initially working in public relations, Krupsak decided to earn a law degree after working in Washington, D.C., for New York Congressman Samuel Stratton. She earned a law degree from the University of Chicago in 1962. In 1968, Krupsak was elected to the State Assembly. She would serve in the Assembly and Senate for almost a decade, working to promote women’s rights, including sponsoring legislation to modify evidentiary requirements for rape trials. In 1974, Krupsak served one term as Lieutenant Governor. In 1978, she challenged her former running mate and lost in the primary.
Black and white image of Mary Ann Krupsak

Ruth Bader Ginsburg


“Whatever you choose to do, leave tracks. That means don’t do it just for yourself. You will want to leave the world a little better for your having lived.”

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”

Brooklyn-native Ruth Bader Ginsburg is remembered for her lifelong career as Judge and Justice and as a pioneer who championed gender equality. In 1993 she became the second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, serving on the high court for more than 27 years. Her powerful dissents on gender discrimination solidified Ginsburg, or “Notorious RBG” to younger generations, as a cultural and feminist icon whose legacy will never be forgotten in the history of women’s rights.
Image of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Sonia Sotomayor

(b. 1954)

Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina and third woman appointed to the Supreme Court, was born and raised in the Bronx. As a young lawyer, Sotomayor served as an assistant district attorney in New York County before starting a busy career in private practice. In 1992, Sotomayor was appointed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, where she gained a reputation as a thoughtful and compassionate jurist with an eye for detail, and in 2009, she ascended to the nation’s highest court. She is also a bestselling author and prides herself on serving as a mentor, particularly to young people of color.
Image of Sonia Sotomayor

Hillary Clinton

(b. 1947)

The public service career of Hillary Rodham Clinton spans decades served as secretary of state, senator from New York, first lady of the United States, first lady of Arkansas, a practicing lawyer and law professor, activist, and volunteer. Ms. Clinton became the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 election, the first woman nominated by a major party.
Image of Hillary Clinton

Tarana Burke

(b. 1973)

A Bronx native, Tarana Burke is an activist, community organizer, and non-profit leader who founded the “me too.” Movement. Working closely with young women of color as an advocate and mentor, she recognized an all-too-common experience of sexual violence and abuse. Burke created the “me too” campaign to allow young women of color to share their stories. In 2017, the “me too” hashtag went viral, and Burke gained attention for her intersectional and survivor- centered approach to combatting sexual violence, grounded in the theory of empowerment through empathy.
Image of Tarana Burke

Betty Lee Sung


Betty Lee Sung was an activist and writer considered to be the leading scholar on Chinese Americans. Upon realizing how little scholarship existed on Chinese people in America, she decided to write it herself. Mountain of Gold, her first and pioneering publication, provided the framework for Asian American studies at universities. In 1970, she co-founded the Asian American/ Asian Research Institute at The City University of New York where she continued working until her retirement in 1992.
Image of Betty Lee Sung
January 1, 2023
Governor Kathy Hochul

To paraphrase one of our former governors, Teddy Roosevelt, “The people have now chosen a woman to be in the arena.” You’ve heard of the man in the arena. There’s now a woman in the arena. And that man and that woman are willing to be marred by dust and sweat and blood to strive valiantly and spend herself in a worthy cause.

Image of Governor Kathy Hochul


And just as we are reflecting on history today, when history looks back on our time, the question will be to all of us, in the present, the question will be whether we rose up to meet these challenges today and challenges yet unknown… …Because obstacles don’t define us. Rather, it is the unparalleled courage and character of us that defines us as a people.

Governor Kathy Hochul