Contrary to popular belief, women have been involved in politics since the beginning of the republic, continuously shaping public policies that impact not just themselves, but also the entire nation. The once rebellious acts of women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul gave women a voice in policy decisions. After 72 years of campaigning, beating, and arrests, women finally won the right to vote in 1920. It’s easy for young women to take the right to vote for granted, but what they don’t know is unmarried women are now crucial to deciding elections.
“If all unregistered 22.4 million unmarried women register and show up to vote, they could literally determine the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.”
Women in Office
While women are making strides in public policy, in the Michigan legislature, women make up only 20.3%. Grand Rapids’ very own Winnie Brinks contributes to part of that 20.3%. Brinks has followed in the footsteps of these notable women in history by being a progressive voice in West Michigan for women and family rights. Her platform and accomplishments include investing in education, fighting for women’s access to health
care, bringing tax relief to Michigan families, and protecting domestic violence victims.
Women of color are particularly underrepresented in government. On local level, Kent County Commissioner Candace Chivis was the first African-American woman elected to the Kent County Commission was elected to District 17 in 2010. Since then she has served on the Veterans Subcommittee and Agricultural Board.
“Not all parts of Kent County are diverse. It’s important that women and particularly minorities participate in government,” said Candace. “I’m also the first single mother to serve on the board. Without my voice, the other commissioners wouldn’t know how it is in my district. I’ve actually used county services like WIC and Friend of the Court, this experience is vital to making policy decisions that impact my constituency.”
First Woman President
Bold women throughout history have paved the way for our current and future female political leaders. We again witness history as Hillary Clinton may very well be the first woman president of the United States. Whether or not she has your vote for the presidential primary, her accomplishments should not go unnoticed. Hillary used her public image as First Lady to push for progressive policies and eventually created a political identity of her own independent of her husband.
As first lady, she helped create the Child Health Insurance Program that provides health coverage to more than 8 million children. Later as a New York senator, Hillary fought to rebuild New York City after 9/11 and provide first responders necessary health care. In her role as Secretary of State, Hillary negotiated a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in June of 2008.
When Hillary ran for president back in 2008 she stated, “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it, and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.”
Perhaps 2016 will mark another milestone as the year we elect the first woman president and break that hardest glass ceiling once and for all. While the fight for equality is far from over, the progress women have made is nothing short of amazing. These astounding historical and contemporary women have built a foundation that will allow future generations of young women to stand firm and fight for progressive values.