If you had asked 100 years ago what the number one political issue was for women, the answer would come quickly: The right to vote. So, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day and the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution’s 19th Amendment this year, let us be proud of the remarkable political progress we have witnessed nationwide.
When it comes to empowering women, Utah can also be proud. Martha Hughes Cannon, the first female state senator in the United States, was elected in Utah — defeating her husband no less. And, while Wyoming beat us to granting suffrage to women by a few months, we beat them to the polls. Utah women were the first to legally vote in the United States on Feb. 14, 1869.
In the 2020 general session, we are honoring these suffragettes with House joint Resolution 12, Celebrating Women’s Suffrage in Utah.
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Utah is an overwhelming conservative state. Republicans hold a super-majority in both houses. I can’t help but find concern that today, while there are 23 Republicans in the state Senate, only two are women. Of the six Democrats, four are women. Why are we so lacking in female conservative voices?
In Utah’s lower chamber, where I sit, we don’t fare much better. Why? Because for too long women have been sold on this idea that there are women’s issues and men’s issues. In this election year, you’ll undoubtedly hear a lot about these so-called women’s issues and how one party better represents them.
The truth is, there’s no such thing as women’s issues. All issues are our issues.
We want our kids to go to good schools of our choice and have a say in what they learn. We want a vibrant economy and good-paying jobs so we can give them better than we had. We want an innovative and responsive health care system. We want more money in our pockets and less going to government waste. We want our elected leaders to represent us and be held accountable to us.
I don’t think those are particularly partisan ideas. But we’ve been pigeonholed by party politics and made to believe that the issues the left wants to sell us on should be held above absolutely everything else.
I’m not buying it. And neither are the great many conservative female state legislators from across the country that are making history and leading the way on all the issues. We are advocating for issues critical to the future of this country because we are driven by our dedication to principles, not by our gender.
Call me biased, but I also think we women make the best leaders. We’re nurturing and protective, but also fierce. We just need more of them on both sides — but especially among conservatives — and not just here in Utah. We need more conservative women in statehouses across the country and on Capitol Hill.
When you go to the polls this November, the poll worker won’t ask you if you want a woman’s ballot or a man’s ballot. They will ask you which party you prefer. Think long and hard about that. Remember, your vote counts just as much as a man’s does — and on every issue. Not solely the issues women are expected to care about.
• Kim Coleman is a state representative for Utah’s 42nd District. She serves as vice chair of the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee. Follow her on Twitter @kimfcoleman.