One of my favorite historical photographs is a picture of my husband David’s grandmother (who was named Laura but called Mimi by her family) holding his mother–then an infant–also named Laura. It was taken in the fall of 1922 at an outdoor event, likely in the suburbs of Chicago, and if you look closely in the background, you can see a flag-draped booth with a banner that reads “Vote for Women.” Because this photo was taken after the 19th amendment granted women the constitutional right to vote, I have always assumed that the setting was a political rally for a female candidate. It would be entirely in keeping with Mimi’s interests and values to support female political candidates; she was close friends with Isabella Greenway, the first U.S. Congresswoman from Arizona and a bridesmaid at the wedding of Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
I’ve spent many hours researching Mimi’s life story in preparation for a hoped-for future book about her, and my research suggests that the female candidate might possibly have been Winnifred Sprague Mason Huck. The third woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives–and the first from Illinois–Huck was elected on Nov. 7, 1922 to succeed her recently-deceased father. He and his daughter both supported women’s suffrage, and she worked for universal peace and the Equal Rights Amendment of 1923.
Something tells me that Mimi, who died in 1947, would be none too pleased that our nation has made so little progress electing more women to public office. I suspect that she understood how essential it is to have women in the room where it happens and on the daises where decisions are made. There is no denying that women bring a different point of view and a different set of experiences to the decision-making process, whether it’s in a corporate boardroom, an orchestra podium, a hospital operating room, or a Senate hearing room.
Never before has an election cycle featured so many talented female candidates as the 2018 midterm election. Starting in my own District B school board race, there are three female incumbents who deserve re-election: Cindy Anderson, Margaret Lorber and Veronica Nolan. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker is an outstanding candidate for Alexandria City Council. In Virginia, I’m rooting for Congressional candidates Jennifer Wexton (10th District), Abigail Spanberger (7th), Vangie Williams (1st), Jennifer Lewis (6th), Leslie Cockburn (5th) and Elaine Luria (2nd)–six women running in more than half of Virginia’s 11 districts. Across the country, I’ll be closely following returns for Stacey Abrams, who is running for governor in Georgia (she would be the first African-American female governor in the nation’s history), Laura Kelly, who is running for governor in Kansas, and Kyrsten Sinema, who is running for the Senate from Arizona. But there are so many other races around the country where women would post important “firsts.”
I wish Mimi were around to witness the history that’s bound to be made on November 6. But at least her great-granddaughters can be inspired by the wave of women who are stepping up to make women’s voices heard loud and clear.
It won’t happen if you don’t vote. The weather forecast calls for poor conditions, but don’t let that stop you from helping to make history.