Caucus puts Hawaii women first
"Toughness doesn't have to come in a pinstripe suit."
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, on women's role in government
(Time magazine, June 4, 1984)
MARCH is Women's History Month, an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of women during the past few centuries. Slowly but surely, women have grown in ranks to serve in positions once held only by those in pinstripe suits. Today the only seat not held by a woman is that of president of the United States, and soon this fact will be history.
Here is a timeline of Famous Firsts by American Women:
» 1872: Victoria Claflin Woodhull becomes the first woman presidential candidate in the United States when she is nominated by the National Radical Reformers.
» 1887: Susanna Medora Salter becomes the first woman elected mayor of an American town, in Argonia, Kansas.
» 1916: Jeannette Rankin, of Montana, is the first woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
» 1922: Rebecca Felton, of Georgia, is appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill a temporary vacancy. The first woman senator, she serves for only two days.
» 1933: Frances Perkins is appointed secretary of labor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, making her the first woman member of a presidential cabinet.
» 1964: Margaret Chase Smith, of Maine, becomes the first woman nominated for president of the United States by a major political party, at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco.
» 1965: Patsy Takemoto Mink, of Hawaii, is the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress. She serves in the U.S. House of Representatives for 24 years.
» 1993: Janet Reno becomes the first woman U.S. attorney general.
» 1997: Madeleine Albright is sworn in as U.S. secretary of state. She is the first woman in this position as well as the highest-ranking woman in the United States government.
AS NOTED in the timeline, Hawaii women also are achieving "firsts." Patsy Mink was the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress, Linda Lingle was the first woman elected governor in Hawaii since statehood and Hawaii's House Republican Caucus now holds first place for having the highest percentage of women in any legislative caucus across the county!
Currently, there are 23 people at the state Legislature who are making sure that women accomplish many more "firsts" here in Hawaii. These people are the women who make up Hawaii's Women's Legislative Caucus.
During Women's History Month, the Women's Legislative Caucus joins the ranks of "firsts." The caucus, whose membership includes all of Hawaii's female state representatives and senators, was founded more than 20 years ago and strives to support legislation that preserves the well-being of women and their families. We work closely with community groups that are intimately connected to women's issues, and each legislative session we invite these groups to submit proposed legislation to our caucus. Also, members of the caucus monitor the national agenda and incorporate ideas and legislation from other States and national groups.
EACH YEAR our caucus dedicates our bill package to a woman of distinction, either locally or nationally. This year's 2006 package is dedicated to the memory of Rosa Parks, who many consider to be the "mother" of the Civil Rights movement. Her refusal to give up her bus seat in 1955, and her subsequent NAACP lawsuit, initiated sweeping changes in civil liberties, making her more than worthy of our package's dedication. This year's legislative package addresses numerous issues affecting the well-being of women and families: domestic violence, economic independence, environment, health, human rights, justice, mother's rights and reproductive health.
THIS YEAR the Women's Caucus also will involve itself directly in projects that assist the community, including our annual "Easter Basket" project that provides much-needed supplies for homeless women at the Institute for Human Services. In 2006, we also supported a project to provide supplies to the sex abuse treatment center and initiated a campaign to educate women about the risk of cervical cancer and its connection to the human papilloma virus (HPV). Through direct connection with the community and through legislative action, the Women's Caucus strives to better the lives of Hawaii's women and their families.
The Women's Caucus has made great strides in protecting and preserving the quality of life for women by providing a steady and strong voice on issues which might otherwise go overlooked by the Hawaii state Legislature. Hawaii's bi-partisan Women's Legislative Caucus is one of, if not the, most effective women's caucuses in the nation, and we look forward to helping women achieve many more "firsts."
Reps. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kailua-Kaneohe Bay), Hermina Morita (D, Hanalei-Anahola-Kealia-Kapaa-Waipouli) and Marilyn Lee (D, Mililani-Mililani Mauka) are co-chairwomen of the House of Representatives Women's Caucus.