LIMA — In politics today, women in Ohio have lagged behind others across the country.
Barbara Palmer, professor of political science at Baldwin Wallace University, discussed the history of women running for public office at a virtual talk Saturday, sponsored by the Lima Public Library.
“We’ve never elected a woman to the U.S. Senate. Ohio sends 16 people to the U.S. House, we have 16 House districts in Ohio, and only three of those are women,” Palmer said. “It has remained three for 10 years. In fact, it’s been the same three women for those 10 years, and what’s fascinating though is if you look at a little bit broader in 2018 and in 2020 there were women running in U.S. House primaries in almost every single one of those 16 districts, but they couldn’t win the general (election).”
Palmer says it’s because of how Ohio’s districts are gerrymandered.
“Ohio is just so gerrymandered that there are no close races in Ohio anymore, as the outcome is pre-determined. It doesn’t matter who’s running,” Palmer said.
In Lima, there are three women on the ballot in the May primary for mayor. If one of them wins, she would become the first female mayor in Lima’s history.
Palmer also discussed the history of women in politics. The first woman to run for Congress, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, did it in 1866, years before women had the right to vote.
“She was on the ballot, and she got 24 votes and she joked that was all of her brothers and nephews and her sons who showed up and voted for her,” Palmer said.
The first woman to run for president was Victoria Woodhull, who ran for president in 1872.
“Her story is absolutely remarkable. She was the first woman to open a bank on Wall Street with her sister, and she was a stockbroker. She ran her own weekly newspaper and was actively involved in women’s rights and the suffrage movement,” Palmer said.
Palmer reminded us the first woman ever elected to national office was Jeannette Rankin, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 1916.
“She’s another amazing person. She worked really hard to get women in Montana the right to vote,” Palmer said.
The first woman elected to the U.S. House to represent Ohio was Frances Payne Bolton. She served 15 terms in the U.S. House, making her one of the longest-serving women ever.
“She came from a very wealthy family, and in fact she was one of the wealthiest women in the entire country. She inherited a trust fund that was created by her uncle, who happened to be one of the creators of Standard Oil,” Palmer said. “Her grandfather had served in the Ohio State Senate and actually ran for president a couple of times, and her husband, Chester Bolton, served in the Ohio Senate and in the U.S. House, and she was very actively involved in all of his campaigns.”
The first woman of color was Patsy Mink, a third-generation Japanese American from Hawaii.
“She ran in 1964 and won a U.S. House seat,” Palmer said.
The first Black woman to serve was Shirley Chisholm, who was elected to the U.S. House in 1968 from New York.
“She was just an amazing person, and she also ran for president in 1972 as well. She was on the ballot in 12 states and had 152 delegates to the Democratic National Convention,” Palmer said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.