California State University, Northridge alumna Nury Martinez ’96 (Political Science) and her fellow Los Angeles City Council member Monica Rodriguez joined CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison in delivering remarks advocating for women’s political empowerment and civic action to a roomful of local activists, university leaders, students and faculty at the opening of the exhibition, What She Said: 100 Years of Women’s Civic and Community Engagement, Sept. 20 at the Delmar T. Oviatt Library.
Harrison welcomed the City Councilwomen and the crowd of about 150 people who attended the opening reception for the new exhibition, which is open to the public and runs through July 2019 in the Oviatt’s second-floor Library Exhibit Gallery.
“For hundreds of years, women have been marginalized from holding formal roles, particularly in government,” Harrison said. “Indeed, it was just over 100 years ago that women finally won the right to vote in this country. We all know that women play crucial roles in this society and country, even before the 19th Amendment. So, while today’s reception and the exhibit celebrate 100 years of women’s civic involvement, we should not forget that women in our history, politics and community engagement go back much, much further than that.”
Martinez and Rodriguez, the sole female members of the LA City Council, made stirring speeches to the crowd, calling on more women to run for public office — and for all to help recruit, support, mentor, fund and vote for more women to elected office and appointed government positions.
“We have a tremendous opportunity in November. Never in the history of this country have we had more women running for office,” said Martinez, who grew up in and represents Pacoima. “Women are finally saying, we are going to lace up [our shoes], and we are going to run and win. Win or lose, we are going to show that we can raise the money, and that we can turn out our base of supporters.
“We have not done a good enough job of creating the pipeline to incentivize young women to see themselves as elected officials,” Martinez continued. “It is not only good for our city to have gender parity, but it is good for our society. We are good legislators — we think differently. We think about families, we think of our children, and we’re also very pragmatic. We’re not afraid to collaborate with our male counterparts or people who may have different political views.”
Martinez has represented LA’s District 6 since 2013, when she became the second Latina woman on the council — serving the nation’s second-largest city — and the first in 25 years. She was re-elected in 2015.
In 2017, Rodriguez — a native of Pacoima and Lakeview Terrace — became the first woman ever elected to represent LA’s 7th District.
“There is a role for each of us to play in this work,” said Rodriguez, who established the city’s Small Business Academy to help women business owners earn city contracts through its Board of Public Works. “There is a role that you can have to help elect more women, to help create an environment that inspires other women to be the best at what it is they want to pursue.
“We need to create greater economic independence for women, so, should they choose to seek political office, they aren’t going to be beholden to any limitations,” she continued. “We need to create more opportunities for us to be equals in this society — because right now, even in 2018, it is not the case. That’s why this conversation is so incredibly important today.”
The exhibit, What She Said, is made up entirely of archival materials from CSUN’s Special Collections and Archives, including the Joy Picus Collection, who was the first woman ever elected to represent the San Fernando Valley on the LA City Council in the 1980s — and who attended the event at the Oviatt Library. Also included in the exhibit is the LA League of Women Voters Collection, the LA Junior League Collection, the Encino Women’s Club Collection, the Canoga Park Women’s Club Collection and the Mothers of East Los Angeles Collection. The reception was sponsored by the Friends of the Oviatt Library.
For more information on the exhibition or the Oviatt Library, please visit https://library.csun.edu/SCA/LibraryExhibits