Women and the Vote

Women and the Vote

After a struggle spanning almost 100 years, on Election Day in 1920, millions of women were finally allowed to cast ballots.  Today is Women’s Equality Day, when we celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the vote, on August 26, 1920.  We’ve made a lot of progress, but there’s still a long way to go here in Vermont and across the country.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Here in Vermont, we have a strong tradition of participation by women in the political process. In the 2011-2012 legislative session, Vermont had 69 women serving in the House and Senate, the second highest rate of representation by women in the country.  We’ve come a long way from 1921, when Edna Beard became the first woman to serve in the Vermont House and, according to the Rutland Herald, none of the men serving wanted to sit next to her.

In 1953, Consuela Northrup Bailey was elected the first Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives.  A year later, she became the first woman in the United States to be elected Lieutenant Governor in any state.  Over the course of a political career spanning decades, she won 24 elections to various state and local offices.

Probably the most prominent example of women in public life in the state is Madeleine Kunin, who was elected Vermont’s first woman governor in 1985, after serving in the House and as Lieutenant Governor for 13 years.  After serving the state for six years as governor, Madeleine served the Clinton Administration as Deputy Secretary of Education and, later, Ambassador to Switzerland.

These women, and the thousands of others who have and do serve the state in a wide range of capacities, show just how far we’ve come since that day 92 years ago when women were finally granted the right to vote.  Still, there’s more work to do.  We all need to work together to ensure women candidates and elected officials have the support they need to be successful.

And, we need to make sure the policies in our state allow women to participate in even greater numbers in the future.  This means we need a strong education system to teach our girls and boys, affordable housing and good jobs for our women and men, and a quality, affordable health care system for all our families.

I look forward to talking more about these issues with my neighbors in Burlington this campaign season.  Thanks to all the women who have gone before me and to those who will join me in serving the state in the future.

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