Why No Vermont Women in Leadership Positions?

This may seem a strange time to bring this up as there is no election looming, but for better or worse now is when it is hitting me.

Our New England neighbor, New Hampshire has an all woman congressional delegation – Senators Shaheen and Ayotte and Congresswomen Shea-Porter and Kuster, plus Governor Maggie Hassan. Vermont has never its whole history put a woman in one of those seats.

I find this fact hard to reconcile with the state’s values and with the number talented and accomplished women just around Brattleboro and certainly must be around the state as well. At present, only Deb Markowitz holds a cabinet post, ANR and she is dealing a “scandal” involving house plants…Digging further in we find the Speakership, House Majority Leader, Lt. Governor, and Senate President Pro Tem positions all held by men. In other words, the likelihood of VT sending a woman to Washington or putting one in the Governor’s chair in the next decade are slim and none.

I put the blame for this at the feet of the state democratic party. I feel as though the party is trying harder to hide its liberal core than it is trying to serve them. Could be just me, but I doubt it.

Comments | 13

  • No women?

    “Vermont has never its whole history put a woman in one of those seats.”

    No women equals zero. Madeleine May Kunin was VT’s governor from 1985 to 1991. But the point is good to make because, you’re right, you’d think that VT would be the state with more women in top leadership roles. However, blaming the Democratic party gives away that you still follow a two-party system. If you do, then the blame should be shared by the Republicans and Democrats.

    On the other hand, this is a patrilineal society, so, what else is new?

    • Kunin...

      Yeah, sorry for the confusion. I was talking abut the congressional delegation and threw in Hassan as an afterthought, but then I should have added Kunin on the VT side.

      I don’t think the blame can be shared for two reasons:

      1) The GOP (national or state level) has not shown an interest in working for social progress since the end of the Civil War. You can blame them all you want, but it is a little asking a bass to hit the same notes as a soprano.

      2) The state legislature is overwhelmingly Democratic Party right now, so the lion’s share of the blame for any problem is going to go to them.

      This is, as you say, a patrilineal society,
      but it is also hetero-centric, Euro-centric, predominantly Protestant, and classist.
      In the past, Democrats have tried to address or limit these historic imbalances (most recently with the Civil Union fight). The state Democratic Party seems to me to have become more conservative as they’ve gained power.

  • Consuelo Northrup Bailey

    Consuelo Bailey was a Republican Vermont lawyer and politician in the early and mid 20th century. She was the first female Lt. Gov. elected in ANY state. A quick internet search yields varying specific dates, so I won’t provide details until I have a chance to research properly. I do remember my father, who would cringe if he were alive, at me saying he might have been a women’s libber, but he was quite proud to point out to me, his daughter, Ms. Bailey’s accomplishments when she was on TV at the Republican National Conventions in the 60’s.

    • update

      Consuelo Bailey served as Speaker of the VT House from 1953 to 1955 and Lt. Gov. from 1955 to 1957.

  • Brattleboro does better locally

    One of our two State Senators and two of our three State Representatives are women.

    Other women have run for many of these top elected offices (Gekas, Ericson, Peyton, etc.) – but we didn’t elect them.

    Perhaps voters share the blame?

    • A snowball's chance under the sun of getting elected, except for

      Despite popular thinking here, VT really has no significant grassroots movement and even less organization. It’s partly why candidates like Ericson and Peyton have a snowball’s chance under the sun of getting elected.

      Cassandra Gekas, on the other hand, is a progressive and democrat, and worth keeping your eyes on, should she decide to run for office in the future. She is savvy and adept at working within the party and likely can cross the aisle from time to time. She also doesn’t carry the bulging baggage that Ericson, Peyton and yes, even, O’Connor have carted along the way. Gekas is under 35, quite educated, has experience in public office and carries an unusual appeal that showed nicely (40%) in the election results.

      More on Gekas, Dec 3, 2012: http://vtdigger.org/2012/12/03/gekas-nabs-job-with-department-of-vermont-health-access/

      • Gekas and Pillsbury

        Thanks for reminding me of Cassandra Gekas. I had forgotten about her and in fact when she was running last fall I had to look her up on line. She seems very competent and it is good to see a younger candidate come along. I think Montpelier could use a youth infusion.

        I have another bone to pick with the state democratic party and that’s about how they’ve treated independent candidates like Daryl Pillsbury. The campaign finance law that both parties signed on to makes running for office much tougher for an independent than fora party member and that just doesn’t seem right in the home state of Bernie Sanders. There should be a level playing field for all candidates.

        • A comfortable game for the electorate sheep

          Glad you like her. Let’s hope she’ll run again.

          Good bone to pick. State-by-state, the U.S. has had for a long time one of the most corrupt political systems in the world. The cards are stacked in favor of a two-party system, which happens to make all the rules of the game. It’s a comfortable game that the electorate sheep like. Lazy, well-fed sheep always take the path of least resistance to the fullest trough.

          The American electorate has disqusted me since the Nixonian days. And the non-voters are equally guilty.

          Nevertheless, Daryl has held his own, and may not be out of the running yet.

      • Vidda, as Usual, is on a Hate Rant against Ericson.....ho hum...

        “It is not the critic who counts;
        not the man who points out
        how the strong man stumbles,
        or where the doer of deeds
        could have done them better.
        The credit belongs to the man
        who is actually in the arena,
        whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
        who strives valiantly;
        who errs,
        who comes short again and again,
        because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
        but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
        who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
        who spends himself in a worthy cause;
        who at the best knows in the end the triumph
        of high achievement,
        and who at the worst, if he fails,
        at least fails while daring greatly,
        so that his place
        shall never be with those cold and timid souls
        who neither know victory nor defeat.” —
        Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910

        Ms. Cris Ericson has been on the official election ballot
        in Vermont 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and
        she will be on the ballot in 2014.

        • Not me...

          Cris, I could never hate you. That wouldn’t make sense. The baggage I mentioned is a complicated process and it doesn’t just affect you. Public perception for any candidate outside of the two-party business as usual is automatically put into a kook category. Even the Diamondstone clan faces some of that. Thirds parties are barely tolerated.

  • And now the bad news

    I guess I am with you in spirit but I think you have the reasoning backward. While I (old white male) don’t understand why it is the case, it does seem to me that at this point in history women, as a group, seem to provide better leadership and cooperative behavior than do men. Don’t know why but it seems to me that we (old white men) have supplied the same old answers mostly to questions that no one is asking. Sort of like that Einstein quote you see everywhere – definition of insanity involves expecting a different result. Now the bad news. We have NRAyotte who can’t even align herself with the majority of the state (90 percent seems too high to me but that is what the poles say) who are in favor of background checks. Then there is Kuster (my rep) whose progressive punch rating is 38 (less than several moderate Republicants) and Hassan who seems not to understand that running a government requires money and if that money comes mostly from property taxes as has been arranged by Republicants since Mel Thomson and his pledge of no broad based tax, the squealing from the elderly and property owners will keep addition revenues from being raised. I say, pretty much every time I write anything the most important thing I have learned – we are now paying the lowest taxes of any Americans all the way back to Truman. It isn’t enough and it is the hammer and tongs that Republicants and Cantservatives and their right wing nut libertarians use to eliminate the social safety net that is characteristic of all advanced societies. Now they are applying it to the new, incredibly bad ACA (Obamacares Act). Is it paranoia on my part to think that they are opposing it because as with other normal humans, when they have the chance to have health care insurance, or retirement insurance (social security), or poor medical coverage (Medicaid), or government regulation (FDIC, FDA, TVA,and on and on) actual non mega rich citizens like it. But back to women.
    As the nurturers one might expect more cooperative behavior and though I intensely dislike this gender stereotyping, it seems to be all we have now. So, be careful of that for which you wish. It is a better idea at this point, in my view, but it can be a horror. (Angle, Christine O’Donnell,Landrieu, Schlafly, Stella Tremblay, Palin, and on and on). So I conclude that it is in fact a better idea but the point is to get good people first and yes, it seems likely that women are mostly not part of the “old boys club” that has made most of the mess we have currently.

    • Why Having Women in Govrnment is Important.

      If you want a really succinct answer to why it is important to have women in government take a look at this video from yesterday’s Democracy Now:


      This is the US Senate hearing on sexual violence in the military.

      Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is seen questioning the Secretary of the Air Force. Senator Jean Shaheen sits beside her.

      Sexual assault is clearly an issue women’s ears hear differently than men’s (even though 50% of the assaults are against men) as I think this video demonstrates.

      At one point, Anu Bhagwati of SWAN (Service Women’s Action Network) notes in the piece that 10 of 17 members of the Senate Armed Services Committee are women and concludes this makes a huge difference.

      These hearings may not have occurred without the women there on that committee.

      It’s my sense that justice for sexual assault victims in civilian courts as well as military is just one of many, many issues that will be treated differently when they come before leaders who are women.

      Pay inequity persists.
      Women are stuck earning about 80% of men’s pay for the same jobs. Many of these women are sole providers for children who will grow up poorer because of their mother’s limited earnings.
      I don’t see leadership in this state or the federal government dealing with this issue.

      Many children’s issues from prenatal care on up are likely (imo) to be heard differently if women are part of the discussion. It’s not that men do not care about or for children, but their priorities may be different.

      you raise a lot of interesting issues that I do not have time to get into at the moment.

      Let me just note that our own beloved Bernie Sanders began his Washington career after defeating Republican one term Representative Pete Smith who had voted for a gun control measure that Bernie vowed to vote against. In Bernie’s case it was pretty clear that he was side stepping an issue that wasn’t important to him to focus on issues that to him and to most Vermonters were & are much more important.
      Senator Ayotte is probably not doing that, but I don’t know her full impact in the Senate. In the past, New England republican women in the Senate (notably the 2 from Maine) have played important rolls as swing voters and conciliators. I’m not ready to give up on Senator Ayotte yet.

      • Certainly off on the wrong foot stuff involved on my part

        The only time I have been in the same room with NRAyotte, was hearing after the Briggs killing in Manchester. She was arguing for the death penalty before the NH Senate. There are several things that I don’t find quite as upsetting as do others and the death penalty is one of these. I think, fundamentally, that the first question that needs to be answered is whether having one is in fact a deterrent. If it can be shown that it is a deterrent, then as part of what we owe to those that do law enforcement and prison duty, it would be kept. Sadly the argument there is rather clear. While there might be a deterrent effect upon people like you and me (law abiders), almost by definition, criminals don’t seem to behave according to those rules. There is no thinking about whether shooting a cop will have a little bad effect or a potentially horrendous effect (being put to death). Bad guys don’t sit around discussing whether they should take guns somewhere because they might shoot someone they just do it. So if this argument is settled (there is no noticeable deterrence) then it is clear that due to mistakes, cost, tying up the courts, morality etc. we shouldn’t do it. NRAyotte is clearly in revenge mode and even if this is a personal opinion, as attorney general of NH I don’t think it is supportable – except if you want to be elected to something higher.
        But this is clearly off topic and onto her other characteristics. I don’t think this is something specific to her gender but it leaves a bad taste which I may be wrongly attaching to her gender. It is, I think, less characteristic of women than men though – something about nurturing and not making irreversible mistakes.

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