WOMEN PLAY HISTORICAL ROLE IN POLITICS – 3/26/08
During Women’s History Month, I have featured in the past many women that I believe had a great part in the history of women. This month, I would like to focus on women who have made history in politics, showing the progress made by many women over the years – locally, nationally and internationally.
In the United States, officials in government are elected rather than appointed. This way local people may run for office and be elected. Sometimes, there are several people running for the same position, giving Americans a choice.
Individuals in other countries may not have this privilege. We are very lucky.
In Henrietta, we have had a few women who were the “firsts” in becoming elected to political office. Ruth Van Ostrand was elected the first woman to serve on the Rush-Henrietta school board. She was celebrated for this and, in 1983, received the Antoinette Brown Blackwell Woman of the Year for this and other accomplishments.
Marilyn McGill was the first woman to be elected to the Henrietta Town Board and took office on January 1, 1986. Catherine McCabe became the second woman in January 1993. Catherine and Marilyn served one week at the same time. Janet Zinck was the third woman to be voted into office, in 2002. Janet and Catherine have served since those dates when they were elected.
Heading our county government is Maggie Brooks, the first woman to hold the office of county executive, starting in 2004.
Representing Henrietta over the years has been Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. She first took office in January 1987.
In Washington, Madeline Albright was the first woman to serve as secretary of state, under President Bill Clinton, and Condoleeza Rice is the second woman to become secretary of state, under President George W. Bush.
Nancy Pelosi became the first woman to hold the position of Speaker of the House. Frances Perkins became the first woman in the presidential cabinet under President Roosevelt.
One of the most beloved child stars in the 1930’s – 1940’s, Shirley Temple Black, became an ambassador first to Ghana and then to Czechoslovakia. However, she was appointed, not elected.
Internationally, there have been many women who, in the past, have had important posts either as president or prime minister. They are: Golda Meir, Israel; Indira Gandhi, India; Margaret Thatcher, England; Mary Robinson, Ireland; Kim Campbell, Canada; and Eva Peron, Argentina.
Benazir Bhutto had served as prime minister of Pakistan, and was running again for this post, only to be assassinated this past year. Pursuing a political career in some countries is dangerous and sometimes fatal. It proves how difficult it is for women to run for political office.
Today, we have women who have made progress for women in politics a reality. They are: Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany; Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, president of Liberia; President Tarja Holonen of Finland; President Mary McAleese of Ireland; President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia; President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Phillipines; and President Michelle Bachalet of Chile.
And of course, we now have a woman running for the most important job in the country as president of the United States. She is Hillary Clinton, a democrat, who is now our New York State Senator and former first lady under President Bill Clinton.
Women were not able to vote or run for office in the United States until 1920- when the 19th Amendment was passed giving women the right to vote.
That privilege came about through the efforts of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Antoinette Brown Blackwell, Henrietta’s own national suffragist. If women do not get out and make their own choices in the election booth, then the work of all these women would be in vain.
The Democratic campaign with Hillary and several men has been a long and interesting one.
It is now down to two people: Clinton and Senator Barack Obama are in a dead heat. The race will not be settled until sometime in April when primaries in several states are held.
Hillary is being supported by many women (and men) who hope she will be elected. If she is elected, it will indeed be a victory for all womankind.
We are so fortunate in having free and democratic elections. Other countries do not have this privilege. I urge all people to vote, whether it is for someone on the school board or the president of the United States. It is your duty and your right.
See you at the polls in November 2008.