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Crocco Featured Speaker At New Jersey Women's Leadership Conference

Some 1,500 women from across the State of New Jersey attended a two-day conference on women's leadership in Atlantic City in October. The Governor's Conference on Economic Empowerment for Women offered 80 workshops on a wide variety of topics.

Most of the speakers at the conference were looking ahead to the future or contemporary issues. Gov. Christine Todd Whitman said that the growing New Jersey economy has translated into increased opportunities for women. Other speakers talked about "winning the power game" and dealing with sexual harassment.

But Margaret Crocco, Associate Professor of Social Studies and Education, had a different assignment: to explain the importance of Seneca Falls and the fight for women's rights.

"Like all good teachers," she told the attendees, "I am going to start class today with a short quiz."
-Did you know that women and free African Americans of New Jersey who owned 50 pounds of property had the right to vote between 1776 and 1807?
-Did you know that for a significant period of time in this nation's history, well into the 20th century, that American women who married a foreigner lost their citizenship?
-Did you know that it was commonly believed at the turn of the century that too much education would damage women's reproductive organs and upset her "feeble" brain, causing all sorts of "nervous disorders," as they were called?

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first women's rights convention held in the United States. That meeting of 300 men and women was held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. It was called, Crocco explained "to discuss women's rights and wrongs, as Elizabeth Cady Stanton put it."

"Sad to say, most of us, as women don't know much about our women's history, because we weren't taught it in schools," Crocco said. "Knowing where we've been as a group, the battles we've fought, and the attitudes and prescriptions, which have limited our options as women, are all important to charting a course for our future direction-whether we are businesswomen, politicians, lawyers, doctors, educators or homemakers."

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