Aug. 26, 1920, was a very important date for our nation. On this day, the 19th Amendment became law, which gave women the right to vote.
Because of the efforts of those that came before us, women now have an equal say in their representation, and much has changed since the early 20th century. Women are now a mainstay in the political landscape, and Kentucky’s Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman wants to encourage the young women of today to build on the work of those from history.
Coleman, a former teacher, began her career teaching political science and government. She says she enjoyed picking people’s brains about their beliefs and the places where those beliefs came from. Because of her passion for education and education policy, Coleman decided to enter the political ring.
“I have always been a proponent of believing that education is the foundation of every other sector of society,” said Coleman, “but, it’s also the answer to every challenge we face. So, it was very important to me that our schools were funded fairly and that we had the means to recruit the best workforce in our teachers because those are the people that, frankly, spend more time with our kids than we do. Investing in education and making it matter was always really important to me.”
Coleman says that, as a woman, she experienced more microaggressions than blatant disrespect in her political career.
“While it wasn’t overt, it was pretty consistent through the campaign, or even now as we serve,” said Coleman. “It was easy for me to watch the way that the governor was treated and talked to versus the way that I was. It was just a different experience. He, of course, was the sitting attorney general at the time, but I just noticed that I was asked questions at interviews that he wasn’t. For instance, I was asked in our very first interview when we announced, ‘What makes you qualified to run?’ and no one asked him that. Again, he was the sitting attorney general at the time, but that’s a fair question for someone who wants to be governor, too. I felt much more like I had to prove myself than he did. That was always a challenge, and it was always in the back of my mind.”
She says that, recently, she has noticed more women raising their voices to make a difference and making their opinions known at the polls. She feels that the younger generation receives much greater positive reinforcement from women of today.
“Women are much more open with young girls now about the importance of those things, and I don’t remember hearing that a lot growing up, the be honest with you, outside of my own home.”
She says that, though much has changed, there’s still more room to grow. She still sees sexism in campaigning, from the national down to the local level.
“The way that we view and describe women, and even the words that we use, often differs from how we describe men,” Coleman said. “It’s really important that we hold people accountable for the words that they use and the way that we choose to describe women running for office as well as men running for office.”
Coleman says that her advice for the next generation of women is to remember the shoulders on which we stand.
“As of next August, every school group that comes to the Capitol will get to see a monument of a woman standing in the State Capitol,” said Coleman. “The visuals are changing, and [young women] are very lucky, I think, to be able to grow up in a world where they can look up to women and women are kept in places of power. It’s really important that we remember the shoulders on which we stand. ...[I’m in my political position] because of the work of all of the women that paved the way for me to be able to do this right now. To our young girls, I would say know the history, know the struggle, and be willing to continue it on and continue to fight the fight that we need from women to move towards quality and representation and to move towards pay equality and all of the areas that are so important to us.