What year was the first woman elected to the Iowa Legislature? (It's earlier than you think)
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Good morning and happy Monday!

As we wrap up our monthly focus on women in politics, I wanted to dig deep into the history of women who have served or currently serve in the Legislature. After spending hours comparing information within the depths of the Iowa Legislature’s website and the Center for American Women and Politics’ database, I found some pretty interesting information, and I think you’ll find it interesting, too.

Have a great week!

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

The history of Iowa women in politics may surprise you. Read up on 10 fast facts:
Last year, Fearless published a two-part examination of the representation of women involved in politics in the state. One story looked at the gender balance law for civic boards and commissions, and the other looked at those serving at the state and federal legislative levels.

It’s always good practice to periodically revisit the data to take stock of where we’re at, so without further ado, here’s a look at past and present Iowa women who have held political office.

184 women have served in the Iowa Legislature throughout its 184-year history.
To break it down, 135 women have served or currently serve in the Iowa House, 31 have served or currently serve in the Senate and 18 have served in both chambers. Breaking it down by party, 83 — or 45% — served as Republicans and 101 — or 55% — have served as Democrats.

Here’s the real kicker, though — 5,357 people have served in the Iowa Legislature since 1838 according to the latest data available on the Legislature’s website. That means women have held a paltry 3% of seats in the Legislature’s history.

The first year that more than two women served in each chamber of the Legislature was 1969.

Only seven women of color have served in the Iowa Legislature.

The statehouse has seen just seven self-identified women of color sit in its chambers as lawmakers – Deborah Berry, Swati Dandekar, June Franklin, Ruth Ann Gaines, Willie Glanton, Helen Miller and Phyllis Thede.

All but Dandekar identified as Black/African-American. Dandekar is Indian.

The only women of color currently serving in the 89th General Assembly are Gaines and Thede.

Nationally, of the 2,308 current women state legislators, nearly 74% identify as white.

Nearly 30% of Iowa counties have not had a woman from there represent them in the Legislature.

When looking at historical data of legislators’ home counties, 29 of Iowa’s 99 counties have never had a woman from there serve in the statehouse. Those counties are: Appanoose, Audubon, Bremer, Carroll, Cass, Cedar, Cherokee, Crawford, Emmet, Floyd, Grundy, Henry, Ida, Lee, Louisa, Lucas, Lyon, Mills, Mitchell, Monona, O'Brien, Osceola, Plymouth, Ringgold, Sac, Sioux, Union, Winnebago and Winneshiek.

Note: Not all legislative districts are neatly outlined according to county boundaries, which means you can’t assume that the district that county encompasses has never had female representation. For example, Rep. Jane Bloomingdale represents house district 51, which encompasses four different counties – Worth, Mitchell, Howard and Winneshiek. Yet Winneshiek is one of the counties that has never been home to a female legislator because Bloomingdale’s home county is Worth.

The first woman to serve in the Iowa Legislature was elected in 1928.

Up until the 43rd General Assembly, no woman had ever served in the Iowa Legislature.

Carolyn Pendray was elected as a Democrat to serve Jackson County in the Iowa House of Representatives in 1928 — two years after women were first allowed to serve in the Iowa Legislature and eight years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote (though many women of color would continue to be denied the right to vote until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965).   

Currently, 28% of Iowa legislators are women.
Forty-three women are currently serving in the 89th General Assembly. Of those, 28 are Democrats and 15 are Republicans. Seventy-two percent of them serve in the Iowa House.

Nationally, women hold 31% of seats in state legislatures. Breaking it down by party, 65% are Democrats and 33% are Republicans.

Let’s support women athletes every year, not just during the Olympics
Editor’s note: This column was originally published in August, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. We’re running an excerpt of it again because while the focus is now on the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, we believe the key argument made in the column still stands.

Women helping women! I am certain most women in leadership positions have either used or heard this phrase. While I am an absolute proponent of women helping women, I like to take it one step further and say, "If not me, then who?"

While a lot of focus and attention are being placed on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, I suggest we have a greater responsibility to continually support girls and women in sports not only in an Olympic year.

With almost 40 years of service in higher education and specifically in the field of athletics, I have grown to love, admire and respect the achievements of girls and women in sports. Through sports, women build character, strength, independence and confidence, as well as a basic joy of competition. But there is more to this – a sense of community. I get to witness the anticipation of competition, the joy of winning and, yes, the disappointment in defeat. But in the end, all skills that will carry these young women through life.

I am confident that without my prior competitive experiences on the court and on the field, and without coaches who cared and mentored me, I would not be the leader I am today. I am keenly aware of the sacrifices that numerous women made before me – they laid the groundwork for success and career opportunities. I take great responsibility in carrying on the work of countless men and women and paying forward opportunities for girls and women in sport. As a professional woman, if I am not willing to support, lead, guide and direct, how can I ask others to support women’s athletics?

Female athletes deserve our support, both emotionally and financially. Recently at the University of Iowa, we created a program dedicated specifically to our female student athletes. HERkys was created to support, engage and empower young women. Our HERkys community celebrates the rich history and tradition of women’s athletics at the University of Iowa and is committed to providing opportunities for female student-athletes – empowering the next generation of Hawkeye leaders.

One of my goals when I became an athletic administrator was to have someone introduce me as an "athletic administrator," not a "female administrator." My goal is to one day be able to recognize our young women as "great athletes," not "great female athletes." Our women are athletes, pure and simple. The time is now to recognize and support their achievements, remove the labels, and celebrate their accomplishments.

Barbara Burke has served as the deputy director of athletics and the senior women’s administrator at the University of Iowa since 2017.

Left: Cmdr. Billie Farrell. Center: Iowa State Bank President Lauren Burgeson. Right: Jeopardy star Amy Schneider.
In the headlines
  • In its 224-year history, Cmdr. Billie Farrell became the first woman to command the USS Constitution earlier this month. Farrell is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Arkansas who previously served as the executive officer of the USS Vicksburg, a guided missile cruiser.
  • Lauren Burgeson has been named president of Iowa State Bank, making her the first woman to hold this position at the Des Moines-based bank. Burgeson has worked for the bank for more than 16 years and was named to the board in 2016.
  • Amy Schneider’s historic "Jeopardy!" run came to an end after she lost in an episode that aired last week. Schneider left the show with nearly $1.4 million in earnings. Schneider's success was particularly celebrated by the transgender community, as she became the first transgender contestant to make it to Tournament of Champions, which will be played this fall, and is now the highest-earning woman competitor in "Jeopardy!" history.
  • Iowa, a state known for its rich wrestling history and tradition, became the 34th state to sanction high school girls wrestling earlier this month. More than 1,000 girls wrestle on high school teams in the state and there are currently 11 college women’s programs that offer women’s wrestling in Iowa.
  • With the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement at the end of this term, President Joe Biden is poised to follow through on his campaign promise to nominate the first Black women to the court.
  • A national survey concluded that the gender pay gap is already affecting recent college graduates. In analyzing members of the college class of 2020, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that women earned $52,266 on average while men earned $64,022 on average. Nonbinary graduates earned closer to $45,099 on average.
  • Sports Illustrated Swimsuit announced a new advertising mandate for its 58th annual issue. It will only include brands that are helping drive gender equality forward in its print and digital platforms, which hit newsstands in May. The brand will also invest a percentage of generated profits to create the Sports Illustrated Gender Equity Fund, which will support a nonprofit that’s on the frontlines of creating a gender equity future.
  • A panel of Iowa senators unanimously advanced a bill last week requiring employers to offer "reasonable accommodation" for workers who are pregnant or have recently given birth. "Reasonable accommodation" might include, but isn’t limited to, provision of an accessible worksite, modification of equipment, job restructuring or a modified work schedule, according to the bill. The bill would not require accommodations that impose undue hardship on the employer. It imposes a penalty of $750 per violation.
  • A new analysis found that a married female couple will bring home lower wages, on average, than an opposite-gender married couple or a same-gender male couple. Male same-gender married couples earned $121,000 in income, on average. Meanwhile, female same-gender married households made $93,000, or slightly less than the average household income for different-gender couples. "Two women in a couple will experience two gender gaps, and that’s a big part of the difference," said M. V. Lee Badgett.
  • Lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow 16-year-olds to work at child care centers without having an adult in the room to supervise them. If passed, Iowa would become the only state to allow minors to work unsupervised, which may jeopardize federal funding.
Worth checking out
Everything you need to know to claim the child tax credit this tax filing season (The 19th). We can’t talk about the future of work without talking about families (Time). You do not always have to say yes (The Atlantic). Girls’ activism has become more visible in recent years — and also tends to come with specific types of harassment and dismissal (The 19th). Do men still rule ballet? Let us count the ways (New York Times). Pumping, voting, taking leave: Legislators who are mothers face specific challenges (The 19th).
Women in politics resources
There is a plethora of information and resources out there for those who are interested in politics. Here are a few sites that you may find helpful:

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