Wilson honors women

November 14, 2000

Wilson honors women

By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Women may account for only a fraction of the state's lawmakers, but they have been an important force since they were first allowed to take office in the 1920s.

The achievements of the 101 women who have served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 1923 are highlighted in a week-long tribute, a combined effort by Speaker of the House Matthew J. Ryan, the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.

About 40 women and men gathered Tuesday at Wilson College for a day of programs devoted to women in the legislature and their impact on the environment.

The ranks of women in the Pennsylvania State House continue to grow, up from eight women in the first election to 28 women elected this month, but they are a long way from catching up to the 11,000 men who have served since the House was formed centuries ago, said Jeanne Schmedlen, director of special projects for the speaker of the house.


Nine colleges are hosting six events celebrating the women with different programs, each centered on themes of women's roles in politics, labor and business.

Ryan brainstormed the idea for the tribute a few years ago, Schmedlen said.

"He said he wanted to acknowledge women in the House," she said. "We want to increase the public awareness of the contributions of women to our state and nation. Women have introduced to lawmaking a whole new perspective."

Ryan could not attend Tuesday's event due to a Republican party caucus.

Women make up about 12 percent of the state House of Representatives, Schmedlen said.

"Gender is not an issue on the floor or in caucus meetings. They are first and foremost a legislator. Gender is pushed aside when there is work to be done," she said.

All of the incumbent women and five new women were elected in this election, but Schmedlen said there is a need to stir up interest to get women involved in politics.

"We need a full representation of people," she said, adding, "Women have come a long way since the ratification of the 19th amendment."

Part of the presentation included a short video with interviews of Ryan and a number of the women legislators on their philosophies on serving in the Pennsylvania house.

"Don't give me anything more because I am a woman, but never give me anything less," said Rep. Elinor Taylor, R-Chester.

In the video, Ryan said women are more thoughtful than their male counterparts when it comes to children, domestic violence and domestic relations.

"The challenge remains to bring the male-female ratio to one that reflects Pennsylvania's society," he said.

Tuesday's events also included time to view posters honoring women who have had an impact on the environment, a panel discussion on women and food systems and an exhibit on Wilson College as an environmental classroom.

Sessions at College Misericordia, Marywood University, Villanova University, Seton Hill College and Gannon University continue through Monday. Chatham, Immaculata and Elizabethtown colleges are also involved.

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