As we reflect on women’s history this month, I am reminded that Lillian Exum Clement, the first woman elected to the North Carolina General Assembly, did not begin her service until 1920. She was elected by an all male electorate as women did not yet have the right to vote. Now, North Carolinians are served by 44 women in the legislature, the majority of whom are progressive champions of reproductive freedom and gender equity. And, in the last election, women turned out at greater numbers to vote than men. Women make up 54% of the electorate in North Carolina and we certainly have a long way to go to see fully representative democracy in North Carolina, but we see progress every day at Lillian’s List.
For example, it was thrilling to see 23 of these women and Lillian’s List former Featured Candidates come together last Friday for our biennial Legislative Luncheon. These women demonstrate time and again what courage it takes to run, serve, and lead in the legislature. Those who joined us on Friday were able to ask questions and were regaled with stories of the campaign trail and public service.
It really is amazing what happens when more women are elected to public office. Already, the nine new progressive, pro-choice women elected to the General Assembly have joined stalwart champions of gender equity in introducing a bill to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. They have held press conferences to explain their plans for education and offered up amendments on a variety of education bills and they have sponsored bills to expand Medicaid. Spending Friday with these women reminded me that, having fought tooth and nail to get in to office, none of these women is willing to squander the opportunity they have been given by the voters. It’s true, more progress must be made, but I am grateful for how far our amazing incumbent progressive women have taken us already.