An extraordinary lineup of women running things gathered earlier this month to share the message with high school girls that they, too, can make a difference. Hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, the forum included East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, Sag Harbor Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy, and Family Court Judge-elect Andrea Schiavoni. Their message to the girls included the critically important advice not to give up after an initial setback. Very locally, young women interested in politics may have plenty of role models, but above the town or county level, it remains mostly a different story.
In the 116th Congress, women make up less than a quarter of the senators and representatives. A woman has yet to be president of the United States. Supposedly progressive New York State has never had a woman governor, joining Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Utah as never even having a woman as a major party gubernatorial nominee. New York Attorney General Letitia James became the first woman in state history to occupy the post when she was sworn in at this beginning of this year.
The State Senate seat held by Kenneth P. LaValle since 1976 has never been occupied by a woman. Neither has the New York Assembly First District been represented by a woman. Nor has the First Congressional District, which has sent only men, white men at that, to Washington continuously since William Floyd was sworn in in 1789. Suffolk Legislator Bridget Fleming is the first woman to be elected to the post from District 2, which includes Southampton, East Hampton, Shelter Island, and a sliver of Brookhaven Town.
In all, there is a great deal of ground to make up for women to approach parity in elected office on Long Island, statewide, and in Washington. There is no better place to begin pushing for more women in office than among girls. We believe that the League of Women Voters is really onto something here.