New York State Senator Charles Schumer paid a visit to the Village of Owego, N.Y. on Aug. 7. Schumer announced that upon returning to Washington after the August recess, he would introduce legislation in the Senate to rename the Owego Post Office, located at 6 Lake St., the “Belva Lockwood Post Office Building.”
Lockwood had ties to Owego, and where she held the position of principal at the Owego Female Seminary for two years starting in 1863. Lockwood became one of the earliest women to graduate law school and the first woman to try a case at the U.S. Supreme Court level. Also noteworthy, Lockwood was the first woman to appear on a Presidential ballot.
Attending the Aug. 7 press conference was Chair of the Tioga County Legislature, Marte Sauerbrey; Owego Mayor, Michael Baratta; Tioga County Historian, Emma Sedore; Tourism Director Becca Maffei; and Postmaster Brian Buckley along with several local officials, business owners and the community.
Sauerbrey remarked, as she introduced Senator Schumer, “We reached out and asked the Senator, ‘Can you help us out with a little something for Belva?’” They came back and said, “We can do you one better.”
Schumer commented, “New York State was the center of women’s suffrage,” and added while mentioning the likes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Carrie Chatman Catt, that, “Today I’m launching a major push to shine light on Upstate New York’s trailblazing star and unsung feminist hero, Belva Lockwood.”
The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guarantees and protects a woman’s right to vote.
Lockwood, Schumer explained, paved the way for other women such as Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Schumer added, “The Owego Post Office is the perfect canvas to memorialize this Tioga County legend, and she deserves to be remembered.”
Regarding Lockwood’s legacy, Sedore commented, “Although born in Niagara County, she’ll always be part of Tioga County.”
Sedore explained that Lockwood last visited Owego in 1909 when she attended “Old Owego Home Week” and where she addressed the community at a talk at the Tioga Theater.
Among Lockwood’s many accomplishments, Sedore pointed out, “She was courageous,” adding, “Two times she ran for the office of President, and even though she couldn’t vote for herself.”
Lockwood passed away in May of 1917 and is buried at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Lockwood did not live to see the 19th Amendment ratified.
Sedore added that Lockwood was, “One of the most notable women in her time.” Interestingly, and another aspect of her character, Lockwood traveled seven times to Geneva, Switzerland to attend peace conferences.
Baratta thanked Senator Schumer for honoring Belva Lockwood and remarked that the renaming of the Post Office further brings her name to the forefront.
Baratta said, “Much like her character, our village has faced challenges. From fires to floods, we have always rallied as a community. And, this is what ‘Be Like Belva’ is all about.”
Just around the corner from the Post Office, the Belva Lockwood Inn, located at 249 Front St., also bears her name. Separately, the hashtag #belikebelva continues to shine a light on Belva Lockwood, and a local group is working on a series of events to continue educating the public about her legacy.
Among many Owego business owners, Chris Knickerbocker is excited about the Post Office announcement. Knickerbocker also said, “Belva Lockwood had so much to do with women being in politics today.”
Plans for a plaque at the post office, or other commemoration ideas, will be discussed at a later date.