Weekend Reading on Women's Representation May 24, 2019

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on May 24, 2019


(Nevada's majority-female legislature)
Dear readers,
This missive will be brief because I know we all might need a break from the news - but here are some highlights from the week! Next week I promise a full rundown of election results from Australia and from India - if they are available.
The Washington Post had a very interesting story about the nation's first majority-female legislature:

Since Nevada seated the nation’s first majority-female state legislature in January, the male old guard has been shaken up by the perspectives of female lawmakers. Bills prioritizing women’s health and safety have soared to the top of the agenda. Mounting reports of sexual harassment have led one male lawmaker to resign. And policy debates long dominated by men, including prison reform and gun safety, are yielding to female voices.

Cancela, 32, is part of the wave of women elected by both parties in November, many of them younger than 40. Today, women hold the majority with 23 seats in the Assembly and 10 in the Senate, or a combined 52 percent.

No other legislature has achieved that milestone in U.S. history. Only Colorado comes close, with women constituting 47 percent of its legislators. In Congress, just one in four lawmakers is a woman. And in Alabama, which just enacted an almost complete ban on abortion, women make up just 15 percent of lawmakers.


This week Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that the much-heralded printing of the new $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman will be delayed - that decision has not stopped a movement to get her image stamped on the $20 according to this piece by DeNeen Brown in The Washington Post:

Minutes after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that he was delaying the new Harriet Tubman $20 bill until 2028, a New York designer tweeted: “We’ll see about that.”

Dano Wall, 33, has created a 3-D stamp that can be used to superimpose a portrait of Tubman over Andrew Jackson’s on $20 bills. Wall said he has sold out of the stamps and is hurrying to produce more.

“My goal is to get 5,000 stamps out there,” said Wall. “If there are 5,000 people consistently stamping currency, we could get a significant percent of circulating $20 bills [with the Tubman] stamp, at which point it would be impossible to ignore.”


Thanks to Lora Berg for sending along this interesting piece from Politico Magazine on a new poll that reveals what voters are looking for in a presidential candidate:

These survey results challenge existing studies on the role of identity and bias in candidate preferences. Past political science research has found that female candidates win at similar rates to male candidates, but that’s only because the women who enter races tend to be better candidates independent of gender. Based on our study, in this primary, women are actually preferred because of their gender, independent of other attributes. Similarly, when it comes to minority candidates, existing studies are on balance more negative and show that nonwhite candidates have often been penalized, especially by the white electorate. In 2019, however, most Democratic voters—including whites—say they would prefer minority candidates over their white counterparts. This is likely because of the shifting demographic makeup of the party’s primary voters as well as evolving attitudes.


Many thanks to Kristina Wilfore for organizing and Celinda Lake for hosting a wonderful Global Gain event with a Turkish women's activist - I encourage everyone to sign up!!

I Don’t Think a Woman is Electable In 2020 Because Last Time Around the Female Nominee Only Got Three Million More Votes Than Her Opponent

Here is a fun read from McSweeney's by Tom Smyth - the headline says it all!
Today marks both the announcement that Theresa May will step down as prime minister of the UK and the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria's birth. Victoria served as monarch of the UK and Ireland from 1837 until 1901 and was the inspiration for the parents of Victoria Woodhull - the first woman to run for president of the United States - who named their daughter after  Queen Victoria. Newsweek has this quick piece on Five Things to Know About Victoria.
In case you were wondering how many women have served as monarchs vs elected heads of state, my dear daughter Anna Richie investigated the topic a few years ago:

You may be thinking of monarchy as an old-fashioned, outdated institution, and in many ways it is. But there is one way in which it strides ahead of democracy, and that is the number of women who have, as queens and empresses, led their countries. In these monarchies, throughout history and all over the world, there are countless examples of women’s political capabilities.

Think of the United Kingdom, whose royal family is probably best known in this country. Its queens are among the most long-lived and most memorable of its monarchs. There was Elizabeth I, who inherited a poor, divided country, and over a 45-year reign steered it to prosperity and a cultural golden age. It is thanks to her patronage that we have Shakespeare. Later came Queen Victoria, who, on account of her long reign and strong personality, lent her name to an era. And Elizabeth II, now the UK’s longest-reigning monarch, has been a stable presence guiding her country through a tumultuous 20th century and into the 21st.

But the UK is hardly alone. In Europe, the first queen in her own right was Urraca, Queen of León, Castile, and Galicia, who ruled from 1109 to 1126. Since then, women have sat on Europe’s thrones for a combined 769 years, in Spain, the UK, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Austria, and the Netherlands. They have been responsible for all manner of political, economic, and social advancements.

Catherine the Great (ruled 1762-1796) established Russia’s first school for girls, and later Russia’s first system of public schools. Maria Theresa of Austria (ruled 1740-1780) ruled over an empire comprising of most of central Europe, while also raising ten children. Jeanne III of Navarre (ruled 1555-1572) defended the rights of Protestants during the French Wars of Religion. Queen Margaret I (ruled 1387-1412) unified Denmark, Norway, and Sweden under her rule, which would last over a century after her, to protect Scandinavia from German expansionism.

We can look back even to ancient times for powerful women. Hatshepsut (ruled 1478-1458 BCE) was one of Egypt’s most successful pharaohs, presiding over a time of peace and stability. There were ten other female pharaohs in Egypt’s history, including the famous Cleopatra. Zenobia of Palmyra (ruled 260-274) invaded the Roman Empire and won territories extending from present-day Syria to Egypt, which she governed with tolerance of all the diverse groups who lived in those territories. Empress Suiko of Japan (ruled 593-628), the first of Japan’s eight empresses, is remembered for introducing Buddhism to her country. Empress Wu Zetian of China (ruled 690-705) instituted reforms to stamp out corruption in her government.

Tamar the Great (ruled 1184-1213), Georgia’s first queen, built an empire in the region which lasted into the reign of her daughter Rusudan (ruled 1223-1245). Shajar al-Durr, sultana of Egypt (ruled 1250), took over her late husband’s government and orchestrated the ignominious defeat of the French army in the Seventh Crusade. Nzinga, Queen of Ndongo and Matamba (ruled 1624-1669, in what is now Angola) negotiated to secure her kingdom’s independence from Portuguese colonizers, and created an alliance with the Dutch to maintain that independence. Ranavalona I of Madagascar (ruled 1828-1861) enacted isolationist policies to protect her country against French and British colonizers.

And these are just a few of history’s female leaders. Look them up, when you have time-- you will find there is no end to what women can do.

That is not to say these women were perfect, or that they never did anything wrong. They were certainly not perfect, but then neither were the kings and emperors. For these royal women, it did not matter if they were personally likable. They could be, but in other cases they could be as tyrannical as their male counterparts. What mattered was their ability to govern. And we must give American women that same chance.

I am not suggesting that the U.S. become a monarchy. But clearly, it is time for some kind of radical shift in governance. For this, we can look to the 100 nations which rank above us in terms of gender parity, and the systems changes they have instituted to make sure that women can run, win, serve, and lead.


Happy weekend all!




P.S. I recommend reading this piece from Kathryn Kaufman who wrote in The Washington Post that "Republican Women Should Join the Fight for Gender Equality":

I am a Christian and a Republican who believes women in crisis should be met with compassion. I respect both sides of this complicated issue. But my own experiences and the overwhelming research data on the topic have convinced me that women must have full sexual and reproductive-health rights to have full control over their lives.

I know that I am not the only Republican woman who feels this way. The data is too compelling and life’s experiences too exacting for us not to have empathy and understanding on an issue that affects our very bodies.

I have seen friends go through the difficulty of having to make the decision to abort a pregnancy, some because they were not prepared to be a parent and some because of the health of the baby. Other friends have experienced the heartbreaking death of an unborn child at times far later than most Americans believe abortions should be an option. I have gone through in vitro fertilization only to go through the horrible experience of suffering a miscarriage late in the pregnancy. I have also gone through the family services program to become a foster parent here in Washington. I can attest that the United States does not have a viable system to care for its children in need of loving parents.

The issues here are complicated. What’s needed are not answers dictated by lawmakers but deep conversation, respect for differing opinions and strong voices. But for too long a critical perspective has been missing: Republican women who believe women should have full reproductive- and sexual health rights have been silent.

Now is the time for us to courageously find our voices and bring them to the table.

The fight for global gender equality will require every man, woman, boy, girl — Republican and Democrat — to come together and ask leaders to be as brave as women and girls are around the world every single day.

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