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Sullivan County’s first assemblywoman

John Conway
Posted 3/1/24

The fact that since 1987 the month of March has been celebrated as Women’s History Month in this country provides an interesting perspective on the recent announcement by Assemblywoman Aileen …

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Sullivan County’s first assemblywoman


The fact that since 1987 the month of March has been celebrated as Women’s History Month in this country provides an interesting perspective on the recent announcement by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther that she would not be seeking re-election in November, especially given the fact that it is quite possible that the two candidates running to replace her may both be women.

Those with more than a passing interest in Sullivan County history might find themselves reminded of another woman who represented the County in Albany, a woman who, like Ms. Gunther, was a nurse, and in fact was the first Registered Nurse ever elected to the New York State Assembly.

She was Jean Amatucci, who was living in White Lake when she was first elected to the Assembly in 1974.

She was the daughter of Daniel Amatucci, who had been the Supervisor of the Town of Bethel during the Woodstock Festival, and she later said that she had long felt a calling to public service, but had never really considered running for political office before she was approached to run against incumbent Republican Louis Ingrassia for the 98th District Assembly seat. At the time, she was working as an advocate for health initiatives as the Director of Legislative Programs for the New York State Nurses Association.

Ms. Amatucci won that Assembly race against Mr. Ingrassia by nearly 2,000 votes, becoming the first woman to represent Sullivan County in the State Legislature. It is an interesting aside that one of the potential candidates looking to replace Ms. Gunther in Albany next year—in addition to the two women-- is Louis Ingrassia, Jr., the son of the incumbent Ms. Amatucci defeated.

Although women had first been elected to the Assembly in 1919, there were still just a handful in the Legislature when Ms. Amatucci arrived in Albany. That remained the case until the 1990s, when more and more women began to win seats. By 2015, there were 43 women in the Assembly and another 12 in the State Senate, numbers that, while still just about 25 percent of the Legislature as a whole, were hardly imaginable in Ms. Amatucci’s day.

Despite being vastly outnumbered by the men in the Chamber, she said in an interview in 2020 that she never found her sex to be a factor in the way she was treated by her colleagues.

“I always felt very much accepted,” she recalled. “And I felt privileged, because I know women in politics were not always treated that way.”

“I think I was accepted because of a combination of things,” she says. “I was a college graduate, I was a nurse, and I made it a point to only speak when I had something to say and to always have my facts in order.”

In November of 1975, Ms. Amatucci married attorney Mark Fox, who would later become a federal magistrate judge for the Southern District of New York. On March 14, 1978, she gave birth to a son, Michael Louis Fox, in doing so becoming the first woman legislator in New York State history to give birth while in office.

A moderate Democrat for that time, Ms. Amatucci easily won re-election in 1976 by a better than 2-1 margin, but she decided not to seek a third term in 1978, choosing instead to remain at home to care for her young son. She has often said it was a decision she has never regretted.

“I saw the toll it took on other families,” she said, referring to holding elected office. “And I decided I didn’t want to leave the baby. Family had to come first.”

As her son grew older, she gradually became more and more involved in the community, serving on non-profit boards and substitute teaching. She was appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo as chairwoman of the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying and served in that capacity for several years. There were also opportunities over the years to return to politics, which she considered, but ultimately decided against.

“I am pleased I had a chance to serve, and I am very grateful to the electorate for giving that to me,” she said recently. “I think I did a good job.”

Ms. Amatucci Fox currently lives with her husband in Huguenot, in Orange County.

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian and a founder and president of The Delaware Company. Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com.  


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