|AFTER THE VOTE: The Women Who Changed New York
A feature documentary work in progress about the forgotten women of New York City who won the vote in 1917, entered politics, brought about progressive social change, and blazed the path for the modern feminist movement.
In 1917 women in the state of NY won the right to vote, three years before the passage of the 19th Amendment. A year later, in 1918, a woman named Belle Moskowitz became one of Governor Al Smith’s closest advisors. By the time Smith was running for president in 1928, Moskowitz was wielding more political power than any woman in the United States. Now generally forgotten by the public, in her day, Belle Moskowitz was considered an almost legendary figure.
During Smith’s eight years in office, Belle proposed and helped execute a plan to re-structure the state government. She hired and trained then unknown, Robert Moses who would form a bond with Smith that would transform public works in New York state. Belle Moskowitz was a major force in shaping Smith’s entire legislative agenda, including programs that were precursors of President Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Belle Moskowitz is only one of many women now absent from the narrative of New York history. After winning the vote in 1917 many women achieved prominence in mainstream political life, in New York and on a national level, long before the modern feminist movement of the 1960s. During the 1920s and 30s, politically active women were deeply engaged in reorganizing the state government, reforming the city charter and municipal justice system, creating low-income housing, establishing maternity and infant care, advancing women’s legal and reproductive rights, restricting child labor, and creating a minimum wage.
In the 1930s women were at the forefront of inquiries into the court scandals that brought down mayor Jimmy Walker, swept Fiorello La Guardia into office, reduced the power of Tammany Hall and modernized the city’s administration. During his twelve years in office, La Guardia appointed over fifty women into his administration’s leadership ranks.
Armed with the vote, these women harnessed the political party system to bring about progressive social and political change and served as the role models for the generations of political women to come.
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NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.