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FunTimes Magazine


Women's Empowerment Is Changing The U.S. Political Landscape

By FunTimes Staff

The movement to give women equality in the U.S. political arena has had fits and starts over the years, but today these efforts are at the center of change in governance.

It's a tale that started before women won the right to vote in 1920.

It's a progression that moved through the years as women held national office and women became governors and mayors.

In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the United States Congress. Four years later, Americans were stunned even more when Chisholm became the first Black major-party candidate to run for President of the United States, making her also the first woman to ever to run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

Vice Presidential Candidate Geraldine Ferraro shared the spotlight with Walter Mondale in 1984, offering a glimmer of hope that women could reach the highest national offices.Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came within a whisker of the nation's highest office in 2016, as the first presidential candidate from a major political party, when she won the popular vote, but lost the electoral votes needed to give her the Oval Office. Her candidacy and defeat brought new urgency to women.“There is a famous quote, 'I am sick and tired of being sick and tired,' by civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hammer,” said Darisha Parker, a Philadelphia-based public relations consultant who follows politics. “That message has energized a movement of women to take control of our own destiny.”

When reviewing the role of women as presidents and top leaders across the African diaspora and the world stage, the U.S. may indeed be behind the curve in electing women to the highest office. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf served as the 24th President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018. She was elected the first female head of state in Africa. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, known as the Iron Lady, led her country's government from 1979 to 1990, a position that now is served by Theresa May. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has held her position since 2005.

The 2018 national elections have placed women at the forefront of changes in how the U.S. is governed with a record number of women and people of color sent to Congress and other local offices. That election brought Nancy Pelosi back as Speaker of the House for a second term and launched young and notable women into office.

It included significant firsts: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Abby Finkenauer as the youngest women ever elected to Congress. Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids are the first Native American women elected to that position and Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are the first Muslim women elected there as well.“In January, four women from Pennsylvania were sworn in as members of Congress, but sadly none were women of color,” Parker said. “Hopefully, African American women in Pa wake up so we can eventually elect an African American woman to Congress. Collectively & strategically it'll happen in our lifetime.” Although appointed and confirmed rather than elected, this is a season when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left a mark on women in leadership.

Her story was featured in a major motion picture because of her pivotal role in major decisions affecting the lives of future generations.

In just one more year, the 2020 Presidential aspirations of several women will be played across American's small towns, cities and suburbs. Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar have launched their presidential bids, joining fellow Sens. Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. TulsiGabbard. The election offers a chance for a dream to be fulfilled and to place women further along the road to the highest political offices and in greater elected force.

Locally, stalwart elected women such as former Councilwoman Marian Tasco of the Philadelphia City Council and Blondell Reynolds Brown are giving way to new local leadership, hoping to have groomed strong successors to serve a new generation of politically active African American women. In our state house St. Representative Joanna McClinton (Democratic Chair) & State Representative Rosita C. Youngblood (Democratic Secretary) are serving as women in leadership in the House.

We are living in a time when young women's cultural aspirations as embodied by Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, and even the raw tones of Cardi B, may dovetail with traditional, feminist political efforts. As we celebrate Women's History Month, let us be aware that much of women's history across the political spectrum is still being written.