She-roes of Democracy

She-roes of Democracy
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As a judge for the 2017 Leader of Democracy Award for the League of Women Voters of Colorado, I began thinking about women through history who have advanced democracy in the U.S. Match the woman, each of whom have been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, with her accomplishment:

____ 1. The first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress and the first African-American woman to run for the nomination for president of a major party.

____ 2. The co-author of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act prohibiting gender discrimination in institutions of higher education that receive federal funding.

____ 3. The first woman elected to the U.S. Congress – in 1916, from Montana.

____ 4. She made a name for herself during the Watergate hearings; she was the first African-American Congresswoman from the deep South.

____ 5. She advocated for rights for women for fifty years; her likeness will appear on the back of the $10 bill.

A. Elizabeth Cady Stanton

B. Jeannette Rankin

C. Shirley Chisholm

D. Barbara Jordan

E. Patsy Mink

For fifty years, Elizabeth Cady Stanton advocated for the rights of women. One of the organizers of the first Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848, Stanton co-authored the Declaration of Sentiments – the document issued at that Convention stating grievances that outlined the rights women were denied and demanding action to remedy these issues. Her partnership with Susan B. Anthony lasted for decades and helped propel the fight for women’s suffrage forward. Stanton was also a prolific author, wrote The Women’s Bible, and collaborated on the History of Woman Suffrage with Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage. The mother of seven children, Stanton has been featured on a U.S. postage stamp, is profiled on a statue in the U.S. Capitol, and will be included on the back of the $10 bill.

The first woman to serve in the United States House of Representatives, Jeannette Rankin was elected in 1916, representing Montana, which had already granted women suffrage. A committed pacifist, Rankin’s positions were at odds with most of the rest of Congress who supported U.S. entry into World War I. In 1917, contrary to public sentiment and the wishes of the women’s suffrage movement, Rankin voted against U.S. entry into the War. She ran and lost for a seat in the U.S. Senate and did not run again until 1940, when she won a seat in the House on an isolationist platform. In 1941, Rankin was the only member of both the House and the Senate to vote against U.S. entry into World War II. In her 80s, she was participating in anti-war demonstrations on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Rankin famously said “We are half the people, we should be half the Congress.”

In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first female African-American elected to the U.S. Congress. Representing the 12th Congressional district, she made additional history four years later when she became the first black candidate to put her hat in the ring for a major party’s nomination for President of the U.S. Chisholm received 152 votes at the Democratic National Convention but George McGovern became the eventual candidate. Chisholm continued service in the House of Representatives until 1983. Her 1970 autobiography is titled Unbought and Unbossed. She received the President Medal of Freedom posthumously in 2015.

An extremely eloquent speaker with an imposing presence, Texas Representative Barbara Jordan made a name for herself during the Watergate hearings. The first African-American Congresswoman ever from the deep South, Jordan worked on John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign. After losing elections for the Texas house in both 1962 and 1964, she ran for the Texas senate in 1966 and was successful, becoming the first African-American state senator since 1883 and the first African-American woman elected to the Texas Senate. In 1972, she was elected president pro tempore of the Texas senate, the first black woman in the U.S. to preside over any state legislative body. She was elected to the U.S. House in 1972. After many additional firsts, Jordan retired and taught at the University of Texas, Austin. A statue of her appears in the Austin, Texas Airport.

The first non-white woman and the first Asian-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress, Patsy Mink was also the first woman elected to represent Hawaii. Having experienced significant racial and gender discrimination during her education including being denied admission to every medical school to which she applied, Mink instead pursued a career in law. After passing the bar in 1953, Mink established her own legal practice, becoming the first woman in Hawaii to practice law. After terms in the Hawaiian legislature after statehood, she was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1965. One of her most significant achievements in Congress was co-authoring Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments Act which prohibited gender discrimination in institutions of higher learning that received federal funds. After her death, Congress renamed the legislation the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 2014.

Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. Almost all of these she-roes of democracy are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. I am proud to tell women’s stories and to write them back into history.

(Answers 1-C, 2-E, 3-B, 4-D, 5-A)

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