Main Street, Wyoming; 320; Women in Wyoming Politics
Mainstreet Wyoming is made possible in part by grants from Kennicott energy. Proud to be a part of Wyoming's future uranium exploration mining and production industry and by a Wyoming Council for the Humanities enriching lives of Wyoming people through the study of Wyoming history values and ideas. I can remember being mistaken as a page. Frequently people would ask me to deliver messages to legislators and I would smile and say Sure I'd be happy to and later they'd find out that that I was also a legislator and they'd apologize. I didn't see any need to apologize. I was happy to deliver them. Help me get to know everybody. That's right. The key things that have been holding women back. I think one or are the war and peace issues and that's another part of Anita Hill's impact would not have been as great as the Cold War were still raging because I do think part of that bundle of stereotypes we have would be
that a woman would be less likely to commit the nation to war. There are more women in this country and white women voters. If women were hanging together there would be more women in public offices. But again. They must not be in office if they are not the best qualified. They have to be better than the man they're running again. In my opinion to defeat him life should be.
Welcome to mainstreet Wyoming. So the days of Esslinger Hobart Morris in the nineteenth century women in Wyoming have played a significant role in politics not just the supporters of men but as elected officials in their own right. Tonight on Main Street we're going to talk to a number of people about the travails and triumphs of women in politics in Wyoming. Guess who incidentally happen to be women themselves. Well this is this is going to be news. When I ran for secretary of state I thought it was an advantage to be a woman. And you can bear with the Casper Star Tribune wrote a column to that effect. I have a lot of students come through my office now. I show them the pictures of the 25 secretaries of state since territory hood and say Do you notice anything about all those pictures. And usually some young girl will say well there are only two women up there. And I say yes that's true. But the first woman Mrs. Thompson stayed in office for 24 years and ever thereafter. It has been seen in Wyoming as a woman's office that I think and that the title
secretary of state. So I thought that when people say What are you running for and you say Secretary of State the inference was well you'll be doing a lot of filing and in. Minutes and so forth and going to meetings that sounds about right. I began by running for the legislature as my friend said when you are talking about I thought you going to go for the town council not for the state legislature. But. We did. And I had a great committee. We ran like the girl scout cookie draft and the men couldn't understand what we were doing we had neighborhood committees and people in the neighborhood talking with people in the neighborhood because I wasn't that well known. I was a schoolteacher but I was known just in my little area. And I had to do all park County about 24000 people. And I think the man just smile when I tell him I was like a girl scout cookie drive. But we won. It's very very hard on my family. My family is very good about sacrificing
with me my time my hours and I think the hardest point came when I became pregnant and I'm always delighted to get pregnant because it's a hard thing to do. You know for me so when when my due date was January 5th and we started on January 8th I came down with the dilemma of should I stay in the Senate or should I have a baby and then go into the well that's the same thing should I have a baby and then three days later go in into session. Or should I resign. And I knew that if I resigned then people would say never elect a woman because all they do is get pregnant and quit. So I felt it was my obligation and this was a tough one for future women to be in the legislature to have my baby and to get back into the Legislature as soon as possible so I had my C-section baby on January 5th and I was there seven days later for the duration and it was it was hard on me physically and and certainly it was a very tough session but I felt like I I had to do that for the sake of women in the future. I'm with you. He
came with me. I was nursing in the president's office and nursing in the minority office and listening to the debate and then I put the baby down and come in and talk and then go back out. And and it was it was tough. I want to and I was very sore you know physically I had to stand up a lot because of my C-section. I didn't feel comfortable sitting down. So you know you just do anything for the sake of women. But I strongly believe women need to have a participation in the government more participation in the government and the way we do it is to continue to be good good representatives and senators when we're elected. Is there any particular area of law making that the other legislators look to women to work on or that women choose to work on pay special attention to. I know you're wanting me to say social stuff. Social services probably brought in the group. I went to. We had a lawyer. And she went into revenue. We had another gal who went into
corporations and went into travel recordation wild life and another gal went into agriculture. So we really were very diversified. And I think that a lot of different interests women look at things differently than men. I believe. We have a different perspective Glenn we're looking at a subject and I think it takes both of us. To have a balance and that's why I'm so delighted that we can all work together and get that balance to the various legislation that comes up. I always said from day one if there's someone else especially male who's talking about a woman's issue and doing it eloquently I'm not going to jump in. Occasionally I will jump in and I'm definitely a strong advocate for women's issues. But what happens is when you do that then you get stereotyped then they say well you're just saying it because you're a woman so if someone else can do it I'll do it. But I'm also very glad to speak for women's issues and I remember one point I talked about the volunteerism that women in the Women's Commission did and how men didn't understand that sort of thing. And afterwards I was told I didn't know you were a woman's libber by one of the
senators and I said I didn't know you were a men's rights advocate. And he said I apologize. So he backed off and so did I. I think some women make to start with feel a little uncomfortable about getting involved in the financial picture of the state for instance. And so they may choose to be on an education committee or on something that has to do with him and services. That's up to the individual woman. I think that. The Senate I really can't speak too much about what happened in the house but I think the Senate has tried to to let people be on the committees that they. Would choose to do as much as possible. There's always the seniority is it can get in the way of your being the one you want. I. Wanted always to be on the
Appropriations Committee and after being there for two years I was appointed to that committee. I do have an interest in healing services and in education. And welfare of the state in general and the welfare of the state. Start right. Or rather the dollar picture. Well believe it or not Jeff that's a tough question because the simple answer is yes you will tend to find that women will be approached and women will show an interest in legislation that will deal with children. That will deal with health care that would deal with day care that will deal with domestic violence. But they're not limited to that. And I think what I said that's a difficult question is that. There are layers and layers to how you talk about the differences between men and women in politics at one level we want to believe that we're all equal. We want to have an equal opportunity to run for office and to win elective office and to be held to the same standards
on the other hand we appreciate the fact that men and women are socialized differently. The expectations that mothers and fathers bring to a young girl or a young boy may be different. And then how do we deal with those. Those of us who are women in public office believe that well we can compete with men and be held to the same expectations that we will bring different interests and different working styles to government. I think the interest that women will bring particularly in the next decade will be in this cluster of issues and that is how does our society. As a whole and government in particular help women and men meet their family responsibilities. If you accept as I do that the working woman will be a continuing feature in American life and that even though. 21st century technology will allow more and more women to work at home. Still will have. Many women leaving the home to earn a livelihood and worrying about how their
children will be cared for how their children will be socialized. So I think that whole cluster of issues will be important to women and we'll be led by women. But I think that we all see that as a halfway station to a time in the future when we don't label. Family issues as women's unique prerogative. Well we also found out during the campaign that there are issues that people expect women to become very involved in children's issues women's issues child support issues domestic welfare family and people oriented issues. I find that anomalous because I tend to gravitate towards Man issues I guess natural resource issues water. Infrastructure. Taxes revenue budgeting. And. I don't know that any woman in this legislature
would could be stereotyped as being a women's issue legislator. Most of us try to be more broad based. And for me it's a greater effort. To push myself towards women's issues because those are not the ones to which I naturally gravitate. And that that brings me to have sort of follow up question which is. Whether there are special qualities special sensitivities that women bring that that. Are really needed in the lawmaking body. I really think we need the balance. But no I think that there are sensitivities in both gender. I have never felt that riff or that valley and I really think that both are just about balanced in the interest that they bring. I didn't think so. But once the observation was made by a former chief clerk of the house her pal now from Albany County that he saw the women in the legislature particularly when there began to be more and more of them that the women tended to look more towards the future and do more
long term planning then the man. The men tended to look from year to year rather than create real long term solutions or gravitate towards long term solutions. I haven't noticed that but that's. That's one observer's opinion. We're all individuals. We're all free thinkers. But we still want to work together and do what's best for the whole state. And I'm just gratified when I see the women coming in and the new freshmen that we have right now. My what a wonderful group and they all want to work. They want to improve what we have. When you first arrived in the legislature How were you treated. It's well there two of us two women at that point when Hickey and I and I was the sixth woman elected to the Senate in the history of Wyoming and it's always hard breaking into a man's society. And it's still a man's world. Up here is still closed legislature in some ways I'll never be able to
until I can you know shower and bathe in the same room which is never you know you don't get the same kind of interactions that you do until they're all women. Another Never. Possibility. You know where we can talk on and on an informal basis and have a women's network where there's still discrimination. And it may be subtle and they try to do well by including women but we just don't have the same kind of respect I think that they give to their male peers. I was given only one committee. Travel recordation wildlife and at that time that was the committee. That they put you on when they didn't care much for you. It was a committee that was in the cellar and it was very important to the area which are represented I didn't want the time that I was being punished for beating. The incumbent. And I worked hard and started looking at the committee thing. Something has to be done here because we're not getting anything done with tourism and recreation.
And. I just kind of stayed and worked and earned the respect of the people. Who at first resented me because I had beat somebody. They were quite fond of I was a very good legislator. And you just we had to prove ourselves more now back then than we do now. We won in the year of the woman. And there were about eight of us that went in. And it shook the man up. And I was right to tell a story about a legislator from suppling County. He sat beside me and every morning I'd go in and I say Good morning Representative so-and-so. He'd just go off. And on for about four weeks. And boy he really doesn't like me. And about two weeks before is over with he came over and he said I'd like shake your hand. I said I thought. He said Yeah. He said you have done a great job he said and I saw you all command. I thought we were going to have babies and diapers and bottles but he said You ladies have really done a great job.
Never once did I have a feeling that I was treated any differently than the men were. They were always very considerate of my position because of whether they thought it was right or wrong not because of whether it was a woman presenting it. I never felt any discrimination whatsoever because of my sex. What what effect does it have on your on your home life your family life your private life both within your family and in terms of your. Your work life serving in the legislature. Well it's. It creates a lot of challenges for me. I have a lot of practice. I get out to the ranch as often as I can. I like the legislative work. I have a seven year old and a very. Terrific husband. If I didn't have a husband who would pick up the slack for me I just don't feel that I
could do this. He. Cooks a lot of meals takes at to school and two different lessons that 70 year olds are are involved in and is carried the bulk of the weight especially during the legislative session around our house. So without him this would not be possible for me. I have three children seven stepchildren. My children are extremely proud of me. In my service to the state of Wyoming legislature. They'll be here next week for the governor's conference on terrorism and I'll be happy with that. Nobody was home. I'm a widow and my baby had gone to college and they're very proud of my fact is this just two years ago on that lie down don't run again. I said well no no. You run. What would you do. I said Well three months with you three months with you I got really nervous. You know. You just stay where you are. Right. Did the women who were in the Senate in the house when you
came into office with meet regularly you're hanging out together. We had a meeting of all women legislators wanted and the men objected to it from both parties. They thought that that didn't make sense that we either should stay with them or. Just or. And so we didn't ever meet again. I think they had been meeting some before I came to that one meeting we just thought or be sort of camaraderie we weren't going to discuss bills unless they were something so we felt terrible party lines didn't have anything to do with but we didn't get a chance to get that far. Well I was there when I first went in. No truly we were scared to death. Because our welcome was not as warm as you would
think. We worked very hard. We supported each other to a point. But it's amazing how. Women. A lot of times do not get the support of women that they do with men. And I had a friend tell me when I was campaigning he said Now let me tell you something. You'll get more support from the man. Than you do from women because lots of times women don't like to see women. Be successful. And that surprised me because I don't feel that way. But that was a surprise for me. And sometimes you'll see that. But as a whole. We as legislators in Miami stick together pretty well we're a pretty tight fraternity. When I was in the house just once every session Ellen Crowley who is a former Laramie County woman legislator former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee would help bring all the women legislators together for lunch. And it was a bipartisan group and always fun. But we did visit a lot about the
issues that that the various committees were looking at and issues that were of interest to us so it wasn't just social. It did involve some discussion of issues. Barbara Cuban has commented this session that since for the first time there are four Republican women in the house. Last year there were no Republican women and rather in the Senate that maybe these four Republican women should get together. It would be more for the purpose of. Letting the man think that there is something going on here when in fact you know where where team players where were every bit as interested and concerned about the same issues that they are. There's no hidden agenda there's no effort to. Somehow create a small group or a special interest based on gender. It's more for fun. The argument that's always used is she should be at home. You know she should be taking care of her family. I don't think it always just hinges on whether she's got the right education or background.
I don't think that argument is is as prevalent as people got the idea was after Barbara Bush felt put down by Hillary saying she could stay at home and made cookies. One of my sons heard that remark and he said it made me think of your mom and you're in the governor's residence and all of those kids that we had and they said but you didn't make those cookies did you. I said no. And Hillary didn't have to stay home and make cookies. She I think it was an off the cuff remark that she thought was rather amusing and I think so too. I think women. Choose their own role if they want to be homemakers if they aren't interested in pursuing a career. Nobody looks down on them for laughs. In fact they're
admired for it. I didn't do anything in the world after I'm married. And I'm glad I didn't. We had done some polling early in the campaign and determined that there was a slight disadvantage to a woman candidate for the office of governor. We also found out that there is a feeling among the public that it's important for a woman who seeks high political office to have fulfilled her obligations to her family and because of that we put photographs in her campaign material that showed Mary with her grown up children their spouses her grandchildren to make it clear that her children are grown and she had the time and the commitment to fulfill the obligations of the office. That doesn't seem to be an issue for a man running for higher office. So there does seem to be a point at which the public does want to know whether a woman's
family obligations are completed. And that seems to be the case in statewide or federal office or offices that are full time. Where is the glass ceiling nationally where do you see it. I think the glass ceiling is one you aspire to be lieutenant governor in your own right. It's different if your running mate selected by the governor Governor U.S. representative or U.S. senator. And I think I can illustrate that by saying that here we are in the year of the woman. In 1993 and I am among only. A handful of women holding statewide office at the level I do there are only eight women America who hold higher office than I do and that would be six members of the United States Senate and two governors. Every other woman in elected office is either a lieutenant governor on my level or secretary of state. Or beneath the idea of a woman being president. I don't have any problems.
Personally with that but I don't see that happening. Well I don't I just plain don't see it happening. Because because I think that that most faithful and not majority will not vote for a woman. I think there are too many people believe that there is a certain level is Cathy Kaplan referred to the glass ceiling that the women emotionally physically. I don't think they'll say intellectually but those two factors in their lives don't call highest two to rate that higher level. So I'm I'm not very optimistic about a woman as president and if I'm wrong I badly when I went to college my father despaired when I went to major in journalism because he said you can only be a
secretary or a nurse or a teacher. When I first entered politics in 1965 working for teener one Calio the division of labor in politics was this. The women ran the fundraisers. They baked the cookies. They went out the door to door work. They distributed the materials they made the telephone calls. The men spent the money and the men ran for office. And for the first I would say 20 years of my involvement in politics the woman's role was the alter ego. We wrote the speeches. We raised the money we made the phone calls we delivered the materials. And after they were sworn in we prepared the answers to the letters we helped draft legislation but we were always behind the scene. And so any program that you do about women in politics that focuses on the unfilled part of the cup isn't doing justice to it. We have to look at and say to the women who are active in politics today look what we have done. And look at what was given to us. And so
I just really want to be upbeat about it. And I think there could be a perception on the part of the people who would be sitting out in the living room in Wyoming watching this. Isn't there any appreciation for the progress made. Yes there is. It's been a revolution in my lifetime. On. Main.
- Main Street, Wyoming
- Episode Number
- Women in Wyoming Politics
- Producing Organization
- Wyoming PBS
- Contributing Organization
- Wyoming PBS (Riverton, Wyoming)
- AAPB ID
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/260-93ttf7n8).
- This episode covers the subject of female representation in Wyoming state politics. Host Geoff O'Gara interviews several female politicians, including the Secretary of State about their triumphs and challenges in the legislature, and how to advocate for a larger representation of women's voices.
- "Main Street, Wyoming is a documentary series exploring aspects of Wyoming's local history and culture."
- Copyright Date
- Asset type
- Main Street, Wyoming is a public affairs presentation of Wyoming Public Television 1993 KCWC-TV
- Media type
- Moving Image
Director: Warrington, David
Editor: Stone, Justin
Executive Producer: Calvert, Ruby
Interviewee: Lummis, Cynthia
Interviewee: Karpan, Kathy
Interviewee: Hickey, Winifred
Interviewee: Shreve, Peg
Interviewee: Kinney, Lisa
Producer: Warrington, David
Producer: O'Gara, Geoff
Producing Organization: Wyoming PBS
Writer: O'Gara, Geoff
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Wyoming PBS (KCWC)
Identifier: 30-01014 (WYO PBS)
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- Chicago: “Main Street, Wyoming; 320; Women in Wyoming Politics,” 1993-01-00, Wyoming PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 13, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-260-93ttf7n8.
- MLA: “Main Street, Wyoming; 320; Women in Wyoming Politics.” 1993-01-00. Wyoming PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 13, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-260-93ttf7n8>.
- APA: Main Street, Wyoming; 320; Women in Wyoming Politics. Boston, MA: Wyoming PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-260-93ttf7n8