In a break from my traditional celebration of an individual for Suffragist of the Month, this month we celebrate all the women who ran for office this midterm election. Some won, some lost, but all exhibited the same courage and stamina of the suffragists, and all should be celebrated.
We began on November 5th with a celebration of the work of Huntington suffragist Ida Bunce Sammis. In addition to being an avid suffragist, Ida was also one of the first of two women elected to the New York State Assembly in 1918. Although her term was only for a year, during that year she proposed fourteen laws, and saw ten passed. Our local US Representative, Tom Suozzi, helped us celebrate her contributions at a ceremony at her home November 5, 2018. Not even heavy rain dampened our enthusiasm.
The day after our Sammis celebration became a remarkable day for women throughout the nation. Over 270 women ran for various offices, 121 were elected, and their unprecedented victories changed the face of our government. Results are still trickling in, but in January we will most likely see almost 100 women in the House of Representatives, (formerly 84), 23 women in the Senate, and 9 women governors, (formerly 6). Many of those elected reflect both ethnic and occupational firsts: first African-American Congresswoman elected from Massachusetts; first Native American women elected to Congress, (Kansas, New Mexico); first Korean-American woman elected to Congress, (California); and two first Muslim women elected to Congress, (Michigan and Minnesota). Occupations ranged from pediatrician to a retired Air Force pilot who was one of the first women to fly in combat.
Bella Abzug, elected to the House of Representatives in 1970 when there were only 13 women members, encouraged other women to run for office. “In my heart I believe that women will change the nature of power rather than power change the nature of women,” she said. She also warned that we would never have true equality until our governing bodies reflected our country’s own diversity.
Within the shadow of our suffragist leaders like Ida Bunce Sammis, and feminist leaders like Bella Abzug that goal came a little closer on Tuesday.
Congratulations, Suffragists of the Month!