I recently had the opportunity to attend a wreath laying ceremony in front of the Jackson County Courthouse where a group of Republican women gathered to commemorate the 1920 ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment which prohibited state and federal agencies from gender-based restrictions on voting, thus giving women the right to vote.
Standing there in the hot South Mississippi sun, I was reminded that oppression comes in many forms, some more visible than others. It took America almost 150 years to see the error of its ways and finally recognize the voice of women in the electoral process. Governance should never be restricted to only one segment of society; man or woman, white or black, liberal or conservative – all voices should be welcome at the table of freedom.
I found it interesting that the first woman to register to vote in the Jackson County of 1920 was a Mrs. C.B. Goff. Even reading her name harkens us back to a time long past where women were often defined by their husbands, and yet she took the revolutionary step to give women in her community a voice.
My own daughter is benefiting from these 19th Amendment pioneers; she is running for 2nd grade class representative. While it is on a much smaller scale, her pursuit symbolizes the tremendous impact those who fought for women’s suffrage have had on our society. Women of all ages have a voice in the world around them. As a father, I’m thankful for Mrs. Goff and women like her right here in Mississippi who paved the way and opened the door of politics and governance to all of our Mississippi daughters.
Some of the most notable Mississippi women in politics include:
* Mary Cain, the first woman to run for Mississippi Governor
* Unita Blackwell, the first black woman to be elected Mayor of a Mississippi town
* Evelyn Gandy, a State Representative, the first female Assistant Attorney General, the first female statewide office holder who served as State Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, and Lieutenant Governor, as well as a two-time candidate for Governor
* Amy Tuck, a State Senator, and a two term Lieutenant Governor
These pioneers charted a path that many more women have followed in the years since 1920.
Mississippi women now occupy elected offices around the state, from City Hall to the County Courthouse to the state Legislature. Female candidates are cultivated and sought after to run for office in both major political parties. The women of today are fulfilling the dream of so many who came before them.
Now here we are in 2011… and not only do we have one woman running for statewide office in the two major parties, we have three (Lynn Fitch, Connie Moran, and Cindy Hyde-Smith).
The Fitch-Moran State Treasurer race is one of the more interesting ones to watch as we head toward November. Moran (D) is a two term Mayor in Ocean Springs while Fitch (R), among other things, has led the state personnel board. Both women are accomplished and well-spoken. But I believe it is Fitch who will be the next State Treasurer.
Cindy Hyde-Smith, a state Senator, received overwhelming support in the GOP primary and is well on her way to being the state’s next Agriculture Commissioner, a first for women in Mississippi.
It would not surprise me to see any of these three ladies’ names on a ballot for Lieutenant Governor or even Governor in the years to come. And yes, Mississippi will one day have a female Governor just as America will one day have a woman as President – it is just a matter of time.
Other female candidates and elected officials are also making a name for themselves and have a bright future in Mississippi politics, women such as senate candidate Sally Doty, Rep. Becky Currie, and Rep. Jessica Upshaw, along with the numerous women currently serving as Mayors, Councilwomen, and Supervisors in cities and counties all around this state.
Women have long been revered as the backbone of their families and their homes, but they are also the backbone of our Republic. America righted a wrong in 1920 and we are better for it today.