This week, in honor of Women’s History Month, I will be looking at six women who made significant strides in the participation, dialogue and representation of women within America’s political system. You may know all about some of these women and nothing about others — but their political impacts can still be seen and felt across the nation today. Let’s start with three women who achieved remarkable “firsts” with America’s political system.
1. Lydia Chapin Taft — In 1756 she became the first women to become a legal voter in America. She voted in three different town hall meetings when ” … the townspeople of Uxbridge voted to allow Lydia Taft, Josiah’s widow, to vote as his proxy, out of respect for the large contribution Josiah had made to the town.” Ten years ago (almost to the day) a portion of a Rhode Island highway has been named the “Lydia Taft Highway.”
2. Victoria Woodhull — An extremely public advocate for women’s rights and suffrage, Woodhull addressed Congress about the issue and distributed a ‘radical’ publication by the name of Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly. In 1872 she ran for the US presidency under her Equal Rights Party ticket. The campaign, however, quickly went sour when Woodhull began to fight her opponents in her publication. She was scrutinized as a radical for her support of socialism and her unconventional relationship history.
3. Jeannette Rankin — The first woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on November 7, 1916 (before women had the right to vote). Rankin set the stage for women generations after her to be politically active and involved. Rankin was unafraid to voice her opinion publicly, as demonstrated when she was the only member of Congress to vote against declaring war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.