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Women's History Month: Kathy Hochul reflects on making history as New York's first female governor

One-on-one with Gov. Kathy Hochul 04:29

NEW YORK -- Kathy Hochul is the first woman to serve as New York's governor in -- get this -- 245 years, since George Clinton became the first governor on July 30, 1777. 

CBS2's political reporter Marcia Kramer says that as we celebrate Women's History Month, there is no more fitting example of strength, resiliency and courage than a woman who, in her brief tenure, has had to deal with a terrifying pandemic and the need to restore the state's economic vitality. 

Hochul wanted to do the interview for Women's History Month by the women's rights pioneers monument in Central Park, that honors the trailblazing work of advocates Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 

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"It reminds me that I have the weight of that history on my shoulders, that these women were New Yorkers, and they changed the course of history because of their passion and their willingness to stand up to adversity. And that inspires me to be able to get through what I have to do to protect the rights of not just women, but all New Yorkers as we lead the way through this post-pandemic world and restore faith in government," Hochul said. 

It's a tall order for the second of six children of Jack and Pat Courtney, a family that struggled financially during Hochul's early years, living in a trailer park near a steel mill. 

"I also grew up in a social justice Catholic household, right? Young parents that were always taking us to rallies, to fight for civil rights, to oppose the Vietnam war. To be exposed to politics at its best, at a time when we talked about John Kennedy, and Dr. King, and Bobby Kennedy," Hochul said. 

"Did you always want to go into public service, or was it something that came a certain point in your life?" Kramer asked. 

"When I was 13, I decided I wanted to be a staffer for a senator someday. I visited Washington," Hochul said. "I was just so in awe of our nation's capitol. And, again, put that on top of the activism, my household as a child, I realized that that is something I would do. But I always imagined myself as a staffer." 

After being politically active during college at Syracuse -- she led a boycott of the student bookstore over high prices -- Hochul did become a staffer for former Rep. John LaFalce and then Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. 

Her first elective post was on the upstate Hamburg town board. She was also Erie County clerk, a one-term congresswoman, and finally, in 2014, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked her to be his running mate for his second term, and his third. 

She replaced him after he was forced to resign. 

She said it's hard to be the first woman to hold the post. 

"I do feel there's an extra burden. There really is. But we can overcome this. You know -- we have to demonstrate that this is our place, and not in an offensive way, but in a way that says, 'Listen, I can be successful,'" Hochul said. 

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She's determined to do it her way. 

"We're just showing we govern differently. And it's very foreign to men in the business, but they're going to get used to seeing a very different way that dials back all the drama, dials back the tension, and lets people know, hey, we've got this," Hochul said. "You can't knock me down. I have been hit so hard in this business for so many years that I have really thick skin, and that's why I can handle this. And women all have that within them. They have that strength. Sometimes they don't know it, but I have that strength because it comes from a lifetime of being knocked around, but always getting back up and standing again." 

"At the end of your days as governor ... what do you want historians to say about you?" Kramer asked. 

"That she gave a damn. That she really gave a damn. She cared so profoundly about the live of New Yorkers, and that every single day I got up and said, 'How can I make life a little easier for people,'" Hochul said. 

She said she also has a message for the young women in the state: You can be anything you want to be. 

"Look at me," she told Kramer, pointing out that she is the granddaughter of immigrants, whose parents once lived in a trailer park. 

So just how tough is Hochul?

On the day she did the interview with Kramer, it was bone-chillingly cold in Central Park. Kramer had on heavy boots, a long, down coat, and lined gloves. Kramer's teeth were chattering. Hochul had on an open-necked coat, street shoes, and unlined gloves. 

Kramer says she kept thinking about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: She did everything he did, but backwards and in high heels. 

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