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Women in leadership

March is Women’s History Month, and it serves as an important reminder of the progress we’ve made in the past 100 years.

In 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified granting women the right to vote nationally. California had granted women the right to vote in 1911, but it wasn’t until 1918 that the first four women were elected to the Legislature.

Women’s Suffrage was not a partisan issue. When the 19th Amendment passed Congress, over 80% of Republicans and 50% of Democrats supported the measure in both houses. Nor was it a male vs. female issue. In some states, including Colorado and Oklahoma, women’s suffrage was approved in elections open only to male voters.

Surprisingly, no woman was elected to the California State Senate until 1976, when Rose Ann Vuich was elected to serve a rural district near Fresno. She made a habit of ringing a bell on the Senate floor when a Senator would rise and address fellow Senators as “Gentlemen,” and her election resulted in the installation of the first women’s restroom (known as the “Rose Room”) near the Senate chambers.

When I was first elected in 2012, I became the 137th woman elected to the Assembly. That year, I joined 38 newly elected freshman members of the Assembly, and over the next year, three vacancies were filled – 41 of the Assembly’s 80 members were brand new. Only about six of those remain, and at the conclusion of my term this December, I will be the only woman in the State Assembly to serve the full 12 years allowed under California’s term limits law.

We’ve come a long way since 1920, and the barriers in Sacramento that kept women from leadership positions are reduced. Women now serve at the highest levels in the Legislature, including my service as Minority Leader for three years. As wives and mothers, women bring a different and necessary perspective to the Legislature. That perspective helps guide me in my committees, and in the bills I introduce, co-author and support.


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