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Women of Today in Arizona Politics
The women of the state of Arizona have always played a significant role in politics. Before most women even had the right to vote, two women from Arizona, Frances Munds and Rachel Berry, were the first women elected into the state legislature. Today, Arizona has the highest percentage of women in the state legislature. More impressive is the fact that Arizona is the first state ever to have an all-female elected line of succession. There is no doubt that these five women greatly contributed to making 1997 the "Year of the Woman," where there was a dramatic increase in women's representation in the House and Senate. Why women in Arizona have flourished in the political arena and continue to do so is a question our group will try to answer in our research. More specifically, I will discuss women in current Arizona politics. In reviewing the role of women in current politics today, I will discuss the reasons as to why women have such strong political power in the state of Arizona, and the difference, between the views of voters in Arizona and other states. I will also discuss not only the future of women in Arizona politics but the future of women in national politics as well, and what to expect as the new millenium approaches.
It is no coincidence that Arizona’s five highest offices are held by women. These women, Governor Jane Hull, Secretary of State Betsey Bayless, Attorney General Janet Napolitano, Treasurer Carol Springer, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Keegan, did not simply win these elections because they are women. All of them are experienced, highly educated, intelligent people who worked hard to get to the top. In an interview, Council Member Janet Marcus stated that these women have outstanding experience and background, and though being women may have helped them, it is their credentials that won the elections. The five women elected agree that it was not an issue of gender but rather of who was most qualified for the job. Lisa Graham Keegan was actually pleased at the small attention given to the gender issues. She said, “It really wasn’t about voting for women. It just happened that these women ran for office and won” (Khoury 2). Governor Hull agreed with Keegan, “You see a group of women who have all been in government, are all experienced, who all ran very positive campaigns.
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In an interview, Janet Marcus stated that voters in Arizona are in fact more willing to vote for women than men, for many reasons, one of which is the fact that men speak more than women. Women listen more, which therefore gives them more time to think and analyze what they are going to say before they say it. She also stated that men are more into power, and women are more into helping the community and reaching out to others. Governor Hull also believes that women have a different style when it comes to politics than men do. She said, “Most women don’t care for lots of confrontation, lots of screaming and yelling... I think most women will want to get the job done, I think these five women will set a very high bar for ourselves, and we’ll focus on our goals and we’ll pursue them.” (Burstein). Lisa Keegan also agreed, “We don’t govern one way,” Lisa Keegan said. “We agree and disagree with each other across the political spectrum” (Khoury). This style of governing is attractive to the public because it focuses more on reaching out t the community. The public is also ready for a fresh and new style, especially in Arizona where the political field has had scandal after scandal.
Voters in Arizona are more inclined to vote for women than other states, for Arizona has the second highest percentage of women in the State Legislature. Although voters in Arizona may be more inclined to vote for women than in other states, this is not the only reason that women in Arizona play such a significant role in politics. In our interview, Janet Marcus spoke about the openness of the West and the different hardships women in the early pioneer days had to endure. She believes that since the West was a new and more open place, women had more opportunities to get involved in politics. The hardships they endured made them stronger women in which people had faith in. Women in Arizona from the beginning were given an opportunity to become a part of the political arena. They took this opportunity and have made awesome achievements since then. Women’s governing style and way of thinking have certainly contributed to shaping Arizona’s voters beliefs about women in politics. What continues to encourage women to run for political office today? State Representative Christine Weason, believes that women’s support helped her in getting elected, but the main reason that she was encouraged to run was simply because she believed that she could beat her male opponents (Riedell 1). Seeing how women’s different ways of thinking and approaching things certainly cannot be overlooked when Arizona’s top five offices are filled by women.
It is evident that women have achieved tremendous goals in politics in the state of Arizona. The question now is where will women be in the next millenium? What roles will they have? Women have become more united by running together and supporting each other, and it is by being united that you become a stronger force. How will women, especially in Arizona, use this force? According to Janet Marcus, more and more women will become involved in politics in the next millenium. Although it will still be a tough journey, women have created what she calls a “critical mass” and it is through this mass that women will continue to become stronger in politics. For example, First Lady Hilary Rodham Clinton is planning to run for senator of New York. So far, in Arizona there have been few complaints regarding the “Fab Five”. In Tucson, two women, Molly McKasson and Janet Marcus recently announced their candidacy for mayor. One of many examples of how women continue to enter the political arena. The election of the “Fab Five” is also believed to start a trend for women nationally (Barovick). As the next millenium approaches, there is little doubt that women will only continue to strengthen and grow in politics.
The role of women in Arizona politics today is an interesting one. The attitudes toward women taking office in Arizona is quite different than that of many states in the East Coast. Arizona voters are more willing to vote for women. Whether it is simply because these women have demonstrated time and again that they are able to fulfill these positions, and Arizona voters are capable of seeing this is, is an argument that has two very valid sides. Maybe these women did just simply beat their male opponents, or maybe it is the different ways in which women approach politics that is attractive to the voters. The long history of women in Arizona politics cannot be denied. The achievement of women in Arizona politics, with the most recent being the all-female line of succession, will aid tremendously in the role women will undertake not only in Arizona, but nationally as well. Women in Arizona have realized that by becoming united, you become a stronger force, and with this stronger force you are able to put on a stronger fight. The women of Arizona have played a significant role in politics since the turn of the century. Today they continue to grow in the political field, setting a trend for women nationwide to become more involved in politics.
These women cannot receive all of the credit however. Women now not only register more than men, they also vote more than men. These women voters support women in the political field because they are qualified. Women do not only vote for women however, they vote for candidates that prioritize women's issues such as domestic abuse, child care, and reproductive rights (Encyclopedia of Women, xxvii). It is not surprising that the women who run for office more often than not relate to women's issues, since they themselves as women have dealt with similar issues.
Women today still only hold less than twenty percent of political offices in the United States. This may seem discouraging, but considering that women were only given the right to vote in this century, it is really a marvelous achievement. It should also be noted that since 1977, the percentage of women in Statewide office has increased from ten percent to twenty-five percent in 1997 (Figure 1). This statistic should be encouraging women in Arizona and nationwide to become more involved in politics and have their voices heard. Perhaps the most important aspect of having these women in office is the fact that they have our community’s best interest in mind and are focused on Arizona moving forward.
Barovick, Harriet. “Party of Five.” Time Jan. 1999: 35.
Burstein, Jon. Five Women Make History. 1999. 22 March 1999.
Davenport, Paul. Arizona scores a first for women in politics. 1999. 7 February
Encyclopedia of Women In American Politics. Phoenix, Arizona: Oryx Press, 1999. Table 6, Figure 1, pp. xxvii-xxviii, 90-100.
Khoury, Kathy. Arizona Voters Create First All-Female Political Lineup. 1999. 5 February 1999. <http:www.gw2.epnet.com/print2.asp?.htm
Marcus, Janet. Personal Interview. 17 March 1999.