William Smith College was well-represented with seniors who attended and even coordinated the 27th annual National Women’s Hall of Fame induction celebration that honored 11 exceptional women: Gloria Allred, Angela Davis, Sarah Deer, Jane Fonda, Col. Nicole Malachowski ret., Rose O’Neill, Louise Slaughter, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Laurie Spiegel, Diane Von Furstenberg and Dr. Flossie Wong-Staal.
Although this feature highlights three seniors and their different experiences at the NWHF ceremony, other students from William Smith College were also in attendance.
Liza Kiernan ’20, a Media and Society major and Women’s Studies minor was an instrumental character in planning and coordinating the induction ever since she started working at the hall in Seneca Falls this last January.
Starting out as a volunteer with the organization who gave tours to guests and covered the help desk phone, she eventually succeeded former Social Media Director Cassidy DiPaola ’19 and became a staffer, assuming DiPaola’s former title.
In this role, Kiernan assisted in preparing for the ceremony itself by managing the hall’s social media presence, emailing the Board of Directors about the inductees and creating content engagement strategies to promote the event itself.
She also had to deal with the swirling controversy after receiving countless forms of mail and calls that complained about the inclusion of Jane Fonda and Angela Davis into this year’s inductee class.
Kiernan was busy all day from as early as 8 a.m. and staying until 9 p.m. on that Saturday helping her fellow staffers host an “extremely smooth” event at the del Lago Casino & Resort venue.
But as someone who actively works at the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Kiernan calls for her fellow peers to visit the museum, especially due to its close proximity to the Colleges.
“I think it is our job to honor [and] appreciate that and honor that as much as we can because it is a great advantage that we live so close to there and we have all of these amazing women passing through every day,” Kiernan said.
Gianna Gonzalez ’20, an English and Media and Society double major and minor in Music, was profoundly impacted and inspired by the illustrious class of women inductees after accepting an invitation to attend the ceremony on behalf of Kathy Reagan, the Chief of Staff to the President of the Colleges.
“The most memorable aspect of the induction ceremony was how each woman, no matter the field, thanked the women who either paved the way for them or helped them pave the way for others. Whether it was Justice Sonia Sotomayor or Jane Fonda, every speech fueled a desire in me to get to work, support my peers, and do my best to leave the world better than I found it,” Gonzalez said.
“Representing [Regan] at the NWHF induction ceremony as a William Smith student, I was reminded of the duty I have to the women of now and the future to do my part in the fight for women’s equality across the board,” she continued.
Emma Consoli ’20, an International Relations major, Women’s Studies and Public Policy minor and Writing Colleague, was also present and energized, full of fervor for women’s equality.
As the senior chapter leader of the Public Leadership Education Network, also known as PLEN, William Smith Dean Lisa Kaenzig requested for Consoli to attend the induction ceremony and reception.
“Being able to meet and talk with Angela Davis, Nicole Malachowski, Sonia Sotomayor, Sarah Deer, and Flossie Wong-Staal was the highlight of the event for me. These women are incredible leaders in the world, and they were all so kind and giving with their time,” Consoli said.
“Our interactions with each of these women was more than just to say hello and take a picture; they all spoke with us, some at length, and talked with us about our goals as strong women moving forward. It was humbling to be in their presence, and inspiring to be able to hear their words of encouragement,” she elaborated.
The most memorable moment for Consoli was when she spoke with Sarah Deer during the reception. Admitting that she was not well aware of Deer’s area of study as an Indigenous legal scholar and activist beforehand, Consoli was quickly inspired by Deer’s acceptance speech and call to action to end gender-based violence towards Indigenous women.
Consoli shared that Deer met with each of the William Smith students during the reception following the ceremony, urging them to consider visiting the University of Kansas for a master’s program in Gender Studies where she teaches and even offering to bring-out them for a campus visit.
“She said that if we should decide that we either don’t want to go to graduate school, or that Kansas is not the place for us, she would still love to collaborate on work with us moving forward,” Consoli said.
This year marks the centennial celebration of women’s suffrage. Elizabeth Blackwell, an 1847 graduate from the Geneva Medical College, was also inducted into the NWHF years ago.
Many of the William Smith students reflected on the bearing weight of responsibility to be associated to Blackwell as an ambassador to the Colleges.
“Attending the same college that Elizabeth Blackwell attended has been an enormous source of pride for me since stepping on campus. Elizabeth Blackwell was such an incredible person and her legacy has opened so many doors for women. To be able to start my career in the same place that she started hers is inspirational to me in and of itself, and has guided me throughout my time at the Colleges,” Consoli explained.
“Similarly, throughout the ceremony, I was so grateful to be a representative of the next generation of women to emerge from HWS. In a sense, my presence at the event helped to represent the spirit of Elizabeth Blackwell living on through Hobart and William Smith,” she added.
When reflecting on Blackwell and her legacy here at the Colleges, Gonzalez mentioned, “Elizabeth Blackwell continues to inspire me on a daily basis. At HWS, they try very hard to provide equity in leadership opportunities for women, but in the classroom and other public spaces, I am often forced to remind myself of Elizabeth Blackwell. When male privilege is exerted over me on and off campus, Elizabeth Blackwell provides me with an inspiration to fight for myself and others, work hard, and be good at what I do.”
For Consoli, attending the NWHF ceremony during the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage was a proud moment for her as a William Smith College student.
“To be in the place where the suffrage movement started, during the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, is so powerful. As a female-identifying person, and a proud student of William Smith College, I have been particularly reflective this year about the power of my feminism, my voice, and my activism. I look back to those who have come before me, particularly those who have started here, and I take strength from it. It is empowering to consider them around me as I take on the next step of the fight for equality,” Consoli said.
“I am so appreciative of the work that they did and the ways in which they redefined what it meant to be an activist and a woman. Without them, we would not be where we are today. I also am careful to notice and learn from their mistakes, so that I may take the legacy of their work and success, and help bring it into the modern world. Being in Geneva inspires me to keep challenging the norm, the history, and the precedence, in the way that our forbearers did, and to fight for the correction of injustice, wherever that may lie,” she concluded.