Gov. Pritzker Celebrates Women’s History Month
Governor JB Pritzker hosted a Women’s History Month Celebration this morning at the state capitol, honoring the work of women leaders across the state.
The following are the governor’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
I’m thrilled to be here with you on this special day. I especially want to thank our emcee today – and a champion for women, working families, and every single Illinoisan – Majority Leader Kim Lightford. Her leadership on the minimum wage increase helped hundreds of thousands of women around Illinois and will lift more than 1 million of our fellow Illinoisans out of poverty. Leader Lightford, thank you for all you do for the people of Illinois!
On days like today, I think about my mother. Sue Pritzker was a lifelong advocate for social and economic justice – marching and speaking out in the 1970’s for the Equal Rights Amendment and LGBTQ rights and a woman’s right to choose – when it was not easy or popular — and she instilled those values in me as a young boy.
She taught me what women across our state know all too well: real change doesn’t come easily. It requires the strength and willingness to do the hard work that others might just talk about it. It was my mother who showed me that carrying a clipboard and knocking on doors and making phone calls and demonstrating the courage of your convictions are the force behind social change in America.
I think of my mother on the days like today when women take to the streets and the hallways of power to resist and persist. On the days like when we passed the Equal Rights Amendment in Illinois last year, on the days like when I signed the no salary history executive order for state government employees, and on the days like when we raised the minimum wage last month to $15 in our state. Efforts shaped, led, and won by women like ERA Illinois, Women Employed, and, of course, Senator Lightford.
I think of my mother as I look to the women leading the way in Illinois. We have more female lawmakers under this dome today than ever before. Juliana Stratton is our extraordinary lieutenant governor and women are leading my office, as my chief of staff and the majority of my senior team. We need more offices with more women in more positions of leadership, and it starts with the governor’s office.
And beyond our capitol, women are showing the way in so many jobs. You’re leading organizations and businesses large and small, serving our communities in every definition of what it means to serve, and taking on the fights for justice that define our time.
You stand on the shoulders of giants who came before you and you are the shoulders our next generation will stand on as they carry on this legacy.
I’m honored to recognize four special women today.
Dr. Alicia Alexander has served our state as a professor at Southern Illinois University of Illinois for 16 years. In her “spare time”, she founded the Edwardsville chapter of Support the Girls to collect clothing items and hygiene products for women who need them. In just a few years, this organization has collected 5,300 bras, 1,500 pairs of underwear, and 35,000 menstrual hygiene items, benefitting homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, and pregnancy crisis organizations across the Greater St. Louis area. For her dedication to serving our communities and doing the quiet and often thankless work to help those who need it most, I’m proud to present this award to Dr. Alicia Alexander.
The daughter of a fire chief, Kahala Clay was taught what it means to serve, and that’s exactly what she’s done. For over eight years, Kahala has served as the Circuit Clerk for St. Clair County, the first woman and first African-American to serve in that role. She also led the Illinois Association of County Clerks, the first African-American to serve in that role. Before all that, Kahala was an Assistant State’s Attorney, once again serving the people of St. Clair County. For her tireless dedication to public service in all its forms, I’m so proud to present this award to Kahala Clay.
For decades, Wendy Pollack has worked to advance the rights of women across our state on every level. While working as a union carpenter in the 70’s and 80’s, Wendy founded Chicago Women Carpenters and then Chicago Women in Trades to advocate on behalf of union women. She went on to get her law degree from Harvard and devoted herself to welfare law and serving our communities at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. In 1996, she founded the Women’s Law and Policy Initiative at the Shriver Center and has served as its director ever since. There, she works day in and day out on a broad range of issues impacting women on all levels of government. For her many years of dedicated work to advance the legal rights of women across our state and our country, I’m honored to present this award to Wendy Pollack.
Barbara Flynn Currie has been a defining force in our state for decades. The longest-serving woman in the history of our General Assembly and our Democratic majority leader for over 20 years, Leader Currie’s record of accomplishment is tremendous. From leading negotiations on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Family program and the State’s first Earned Income Tax Credit, to passing legislation to expand protections under the Equal Pay Act, allow online voter registration, reform the State’s juvenile justice system, help prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, and provide free mammograms for low-income women, Representative Currie’s leadership has transformed our state forever. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m so proud to present this award and introduce our keynote speaker today, Leader Barbara Flynn Currie.
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